On Friday, November 26, 2021, the World Health Organization (“WHO”) reported a new variant of COVID-19, the Omicron variant, was detected in South Africa. There is no indication the new variant is more contagious or more lethal, or that it is resistant to the COVID-19 vaccine. The WHO did report, however, that the Omicron variant carries with it a higher risk of reinfection. Experts believe more study is needed of this rapidly evolving variant before predictions can be made regarding the degree of transmissibility. Global markets reacted quickly to news of the variant.

In response, and on the recommendation of the Chief Medical Advisor, the Biden Administration imposed travel restrictions on South Africa and seven other countries. Those restrictions take effect tomorrow, November 29, 2021. The President urged all those who are currently vaccinated to receive a booster shot if eligible. Likewise, the President urged all those who are not currently vaccinated to do so, including both children and adults. Finally, the President urged the greater global community to match the United States’ donations of vaccines to other countries because “this pandemic will not end until we have global vaccinations.”

Norton Rose Fulbright lawyers will continue to provide relevant updates for healthcare providers on the Health Law Pulse during the COVID-19 public health crisis.