On 26 November 2021, The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the new Omicron variant, first detected in South Africa, a variant of concern.
The Omicron variant spreads faster than the better-known Delta variant and studies are underway to determine its severity as compared to the Delta variant and whether approved coronavirus vaccines provide continued protection against severe illness and death among those who become infected after vaccination.
Pharmaceutical company Pfizer has developed an antiviral pill which it says is effective in protecting against the Omicron variant and in preventing hospitalizations and deaths.
However, in the UK, hospitals are already operating at 94-96 per cent capacity and the UK health secretary Sajid Javid warns the NHS is at risk of being overwhelmed.
In Germany infection rates are at a record high, and the newly-appointed health minister there is an advocate of mandatory vaccination, strict restrictions on the unvaccinated, and the closure of entertainment venues, clubs and bars until the fourth wave of the pandemic abates.
How can new variants of COVID-19 be contained?
Are travel restrictions, consistent testing and the use of face masks the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19?
Going forward, will medication alongside vaccines help control COVID-19?
Is herd immunity possible with current vaccines and the immune response after infection?
How will new variants affect travel in 2022?