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New COVID variant stokes fear
COVID
COVID

BRUSSELS (AP) — The discovery of a new coronavirus variant sent a chill through much of the world Friday as nations raced to halt air travel, markets plunged, and scientists held emergency meetings to weigh the exact risks, which are largely unknown.

Medical experts, including the World Health Organization, warned against any overreaction before the variant that originated in southern Africa is better understood. But a jittery world feared the worst nearly two years after COVID-19 emerged and triggered a pandemic that has killed more than 5 million people around the globe.

Some nations moved to stop air travel from southern Africa, and stocks plunged in Asia, Europe and the United States.

“The last thing we need is to bring in a new variant that will cause even more problems,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn said amid a massive spike in cases in the 27-nation European Union, which recommended a ban on flights from southern African nations.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen insisted on extreme caution, warning that “mutations could lead to the emergence and spread of even more concerning variants of the virus that could spread worldwide within a few months.

Belgium became the first European Union country to announce a case of the variant. It involved a person who came from abroad.

“It’s a suspicious variant. We don’t know if it’s a very dangerous variant,” Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said.

Israel, one of the world's most vaccinated countries, announced Friday that it also detected the country’s first case of the new variant in a traveler who returned from Malawi. The traveler and two other suspected cases were placed in isolation. Israel said all three were vaccinated, but officials were looking into the travelers' exact vaccination status.

The neBRUSSELS (AP) — The discovery of a new coronavirus variant sent a chill through much of the world Friday as nations raced to halt air travel, markets plunged, and scientists held emergency meetings to weigh the exact risks, which are largely unknown.

Medical experts, including the World Health Organization, warned against any overreaction before the variant that originated in southern Africa is better understood. But a jittery world feared the worst nearly two years after COVID-19 emerged and triggered a pandemic that has killed more than 5 million people around the globe.

Some nations moved to stop air travel from southern Africa, and stocks plunged in Asia, Europe and the United States.

“The last thing we need is to bring in a new variant that will cause even more problems,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn said amid a massive spike in cases in the 27-nation European Union, which recommended a ban on flights from southern African nations.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen insisted on extreme caution, warning that “mutations could lead to the emergence and spread of even more concerning variants of the virus that could spread worldwide within a few months.

Belgium became the first European Union country to announce a case of the variant. It involved a person who came from abroad.

“It’s a suspicious variant. We don’t know if it’s a very dangerous variant,” Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said.

Israel, one of the world's most vaccinated countries, announced Friday that it also detected the country’s first case of the new variant in a traveler who returned from Malawi. The traveler and two other suspected cases were placed in isolation. Israel said all three were vaccinated, but officials were looking into the travelers' exact vaccination status.

The new variant immediately stoked fears of more pandemic-related economic turmoil.

“Investors are likely to shoot first and ask questions later until more is known,” said Jeffrey Halley of foreign exchange broker Oanda.

The coronavirus evolves as it spreads and many new variants, including those with potentially risky mutations, often die out. Scientists monitor for possible changes that could be more transmissible or deadlier, but sorting out the exact dangers of new variants takes time.

The WHO’s technical working group is to meet to assess the new variant — currently identified as B.1.1.529 — and may decide whether to give it a name from the Greek alphabet. It says coronavirus infections jumped 11% in Europe in the past week, the only region in the world where COVID-19 continues to rise.

The WHO’s Europe director, Dr. Hans Kluge, warned that without urgent measures, the continent could see another 700,000 deaths by the spring.w variant immediately stoked fears of more pandemic-related economic turmoil.

“Investors are likely to shoot first and ask questions later until more is known,” said Jeffrey Halley of foreign exchange broker Oanda.

The coronavirus evolves as it spreads and many new variants, including those with potentially risky mutations, often die out. Scientists monitor for possible changes that could be more transmissible or deadlier, but sorting out the exact dangers of new variants takes time.

The WHO’s technical working group is to meet to assess the new variant — currently identified as B.1.1.529 — and may decide whether to give it a name from the Greek alphabet. It says coronavirus infections jumped 11% in Europe in the past week, the only region in the world where COVID-19 continues to rise.

The WHO’s Europe director, Dr. Hans Kluge, warned that without urgent measures, the continent could see another 700,000 deaths by the spring.