Omicron spreads to more countries, China warns of ‘challenges’ for Winter Olympics

The fast-spreading Omicron variant of the coronavirus had been detected Tuesday in several new countries, including Japan, prompting China, host of the 2022 Winter Olympics, to warn that the virus will pose challenges for hosting the games.

The Omicron variant first detected in South Africa poses a “very high” global risk, the World Health Organization warned, urging governments to speed up vaccination of high-priority groups. Follow FRANCE 24’s coverage of the day’s events.

10:30 am Paris time: Moderna says existing vaccines will fight Omicron

In an interview with the Financial Times, Stephane Bancel, director of the American vaccine manufacturer Moderna, said that data will be available on the effectiveness of current vaccines in the next two weeks, but that scientists are not optimistic.

“All the scientists I’ve talked to … are like ‘this is not going to be good,'” he said, adding that there will be a “material drop” in the effectiveness of the current punches against Omicron.

Bancel said the researchers were concerned because 32 of 50 mutations found in the Omicron variant were in the spike protein, a part of the virus that vaccines use to boost the immune system against Covid-19.

Moderna has already said that it is working on a specific Omicron vaccine, as is the US pharmaceutical company Pfizer.

Chief Executive Officer Bancel said his company could deliver between 2 billion and 3 billion doses in 2022, but it would be dangerous to switch all production to a specific injection of Omicron with other strains of the virus still in circulation.

9:30 am Paris time: China says Omicron will pose ‘challenges’ for Winter Olympics

China has warned that the Omicron variant will cause challenges to host next February’s Winter Olympics in Beijing.

“I think it will definitely lead to prevention and control related challenges,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.

09.00 am Paris time: Japan confirms its first case of Omicron variant

Japan has confirmed its first case of the Omicron coronavirus variant, a day after authorities announced new Covid border restrictions.

The case was brought up during routine tests at an airport, where a man in his 30s, who had traveled to Japan from Namibia, tested positive for Covid-19.

The man is now isolated in a medical facility.

On Monday, Japan tightened its border rules, excluding all foreign newcomers to the country for fear of the newly discovered variant.

Japan recorded just over 18,300 coronavirus deaths during the pandemic

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