Drugmaker Moderna’s CEO set off fresh alarm bells in financial markets on Tuesday after he warned that Covid-19 vaccines were unlikely to be as effective against the Omicron variant as they have been against the Delta version.

Moderna did not reply to a Reuters’ request for comment on the interview and on when it expects to have data on the effectiveness of its vaccine against Omicron, which the World Health Organization  says carries a “very high” risk of infection surges.

The WHO and scientists have also said it could take days to several weeks to understand the level of severity of the variant and its potential to escape protection against immunity induced by vaccines. John Wherry, director of the Penn Institute for Immunology in Philadelphia said, “Vaccination will likely still keep you out of the hospital”.

Biden has called for wider vaccination, while the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged everyone aged 18 years and older to get a booster shot. Britain too has expanded its Covid-19 booster programme amid Omicron fears.

Hong Kong has expanded a ban on entry for non-residents from several countries. It said non-residents from Angola, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zambia would not be allowed to enter as of Nov. 30.

The global financial hub, among the last places pursuing a zero-Covid strategy, has already banned non-residents arriving from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.In Australia, five travellers tested positive for Omicron.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement, “The people of Africa cannot be blamed for the immorally low level of vaccinations available in Africa – and they should not be penalized for identifying and sharing crucial science and health information with the world,”

Singapore’s health ministry said two travellers from Johannesburg who tested positive for the variant in Sydney had transited through its Changi airport.Australian authorities have also identified a sixth traveller who was most likely infected with the variant and had spent time in the community.

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