World Health Organization officials have said that while border closures may help some countries buy time to deal with the Omicron Covid-19 variant, the measures put in place to deal with the delta variant must remain the foundation for effectively fighting the pandemic.
"Border control can delay the virus coming in and buy time. But every country and every community must prepare for new surges in cases," WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Dr. Takeshi Kasai said.
"The positive news in all of this is that none of the information we have currently about omicron suggests we need to change the directions of our response."
However, he added that the Asia-Pacific region should brace for a surge in cases ahead of the Christmas holidays. People needed to remain vigilant due to increased travel and gatherings.
While much remains unknown about the new variant, some health authorities suspect that it may be more contagious. Many questions remain, including whether it makes people more seriously ill or if it can thwart the vaccine.
WHO Regional Emergency Director Dr. Babatunde Olowokure said countries must aim to implement the same measures used to curb the spread of the delta variant, including full vaccination coverage, social distancing, mask wearing and other measures.
Here are some more Omicron Covid-19 variant headlines from around the world:
Covid-19 vaccines made using the mRNA technology, like the BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna shots, provide the biggest boost to antibody levels when administered 10-12 weeks after the second shot, a British study has found.
The "COV-Boost" study found that a full dose or half dose of the Pfizer shot, or a full dose of Moderna vaccine, provided an effective boost to antibody and T-cell levels in both cases, regardless of whether the initial vaccination was done with Pfizer or AstraZeneca.
"A third dose will be effective for many of the vaccines we've tested and in many different combinations," Professor Saul Faust, an immunologist at the University of Southampton, said.
South African Health Minister Joseph Phaahla said the country is entering the fourth wave of the pandemic as infections continue to rise. New daily cases in the country nearly doubled to 8,561 on Wednesday, a steep rise from 4,373 a day earlier, according to official statistics.
Health officials said they had seen increasing hospital admissions in children under five due to the spread of the omicron variant. They also noted higher case numbers among children aged 10-14.
The European Union's public health agency said the omicron variant could be responsible for over half of all infections in Europe over the next few months. The agency added that no cases of severe disease had yet been identified in Europe.
Germany has reported 74,352 new infections on Friday, slightly higher than a day before, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases (RKI). With 390 deaths reported in that period, the total death toll has risen to 102,568.
Poland and Swizerland will be added to Germany's list of high-risk countries to visit effective Sunday. Its neighbors will join fellow EU members the Netherlands, Ireland, Belgium and Greece. After dropping other European countries from lists of concern for much of 2021, the past six weeks has seen more and more added back. Liechtenstein is also set to be put on the list next week.
France has reported nine confirmed cases of the omicron variant on the mainland. The government's top scientific adviser said it could be the dominant variant in the country by the end of January.
Malaysia has reported its first omicron case in a foreign student who came back after visiting her family in South Africa last month.
India has reported its first two omicron cases. However, the government said it had no immediate plan to authorize booster vaccine shots for the population despite demands from lawmakers.
Nepal is set to ban the entry of travelers who have been in eight African countries and Hong Kong in order to curb the spread of the new variant.
Sri Lanka has identified the first omicron patient in the country. The Sri Lankan national had recently returned from South Africa.
Australia has reported its first community transmission of the new variant, but authorities are set to stay on track with a plan to reopen the economy.
"Transmission is always a concern but we again need to keep it in perspective," NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard told reporters. "Worldwide there is no clarity around whether this particular variant is going to cause us anywhere near the problems that the earlier variants caused us."