(NEW YORK) — As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe, more than 5.1 million people have died from the disease worldwide, including over 775,000 Americans, according to real-time data compiled by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
Just 59.1% of the population in the United States is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Here’s how the new is developing. All times Eastern:
Nov 26, 9:24 am
Belgium confirms 1st European case of new variant
Belgium’s health department has confirmed its first case of the new B.1.1.529 variant.
The patient, a woman, had traveled to Belgium from Egypt via Istanbul. She developed symptoms 11 days after her return and was not vaccinated. Her family members have tested negative for COVID and the woman is not in a life-threatening condition, officials said.
Hong Kong has two confirmed cases and Israel has one other confirmed case of the B.1.1.529 variant. Several cases have been reported in South Africa and Botswana.
The World Health Organization is meeting Friday to discuss the new variant.
Nov 26, 4:04 am
EU to propose travel ban on southern Africa over new variant
The European Union’s executive branch said Friday that it wants to suspend air travel to the bloc from southern Africa due to concerns over a newly identified variant of the novel coronavirus.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen made the announcement via Twitter, saying a proposal “to activate the emergency brake to stop air travel from the Southern Africa region” will be made “in close coordination” with EU member states.
The variant, called B.1.1.529, was first detected in South Africa earlier this week and has quickly spread. At least 22 cases have been confirmed in the country so far, according to South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases. South African scientist Tulio de Oliveira told reporters Thursday that the new variant carries “a very high number of mutations,” but it’s unclear whether it will limit the effectiveness of vaccines.
Several cases of B.1.1.529 have since been confirmed in neighboring Botswana as well as in Hong Kong and Israel. The cases detected in Hong Kong and Israel were linked to travelers who had arrived from southern Africa.
The World Health Organization will meet on Friday to assess B.1.1.529 and determine whether it should be designated a variant “of interest” or “of concern.”
Nov 25, 8:01 pm
UK issues travel restrictions due to concerns over new variant
The United Kingdom announced Thursday new travel restrictions for six countries over concerns about a new variant of the novel coronavirus that emerged in South Africa.
The variant, known as B.1.1.529, has also been found in Botswana and Hong Kong in travelers from southern Africa. It has not yet been detected in the U.K., officials said.
“The early indications we have of this variant is that it may be more transmissible than the delta variant, and the vaccines that we currently have may be less effective against it,” U.K. Health Secretary Sajid Javid said during a briefing Thursday.
Starting midday on Friday, all flights from six southern African countries — South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Botswana — will be temporarily suspended, and travelers entering the U.K. from those countries after 4 a.m. on Sunday must quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days.
Currently, B.1.1.529 is not designated by the World Health Organization as a variant “of concern” or “of interest.” So far, 22 cases have been confirmed in South Africa, according to the country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases.
The WHO’s technical working group is scheduled to meet Friday to assess the new variant and may decide whether to give it a name from the Greek alphabet, based on its naming system for variants of concern and variants of interest.
The virus evolves as it spreads and many new variants, including those with worrying mutations, often just die out. Scientists monitor for possible changes that could be more transmissible or deadly, but sorting out whether new variants will have a public health impact can take time.
Nov 25, 10:18 am
Arizona hospital enters ‘crisis care’ operating mode
The Copper Queen Community Hospital in Bisbee, Arizona, is “operating in crisis care” due to the latest surge of COVID-19 cases in the state, local ABC affiliate KNXV reported.
The hospital only had 13 beds available and was “really struggling,” according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
The state reported its 84,813th COVID-19 hospitalization on Tuesday, according to health department data. Arizona reported more than 4,000 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday.
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