COVID variant spreads to more countries as world on alert

Coronavirus

The CDC made the announcement shortly after the World Health Organization (WHO) classified the omicron variant, or B.1.1.529, as a Variant of Concern. (Getty Images)

LONDON (Associated Press) — The new potentially more contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus has popped up in more European countries, just days after being identified in South Africa, leaving governments around the world scrambling to stop the spread.

The U.K. on Saturday tightened its rules on mask-wearing and on testing of international arrivals after finding two cases.

New cases were confirmed Saturday in Germany and Italy, with Belgium, Israel and Hong Kong also reporting that the variant has been found in travelers.

There are growing concerns that the pandemic and associated lockdown restrictions will persist for far longer than hoped because of fears that the new variant has the potential to be more resistant to the protection offered by vaccines.

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