Germany and Italy reported confirmed cases of the omicron variant of the coronavirus on Saturday. The UK already had said two people there have the new strain. The two German cases involved travelers in Munich who had arrived from Cape Town, CNN reports, while the patient in Italy had come from Mozambique. Belgium, Israel, and Hong Kong also said they'd detected the omicron variant in travelers, per the AP. Dr. Anthony Fauci said it wouldn't surprise him to learn that the new variant has reached the US.
"We have not detected it yet, but when you have a virus that is showing this degree of transmissibility ... it almost invariably is ultimately going to go essentially all over," Fauci said. In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Saturday evening that face masks would be required in stores and on public transportation for the first time since July, per the New York Times. His government is renewing its efforts to get the coronavirus vaccines, including booster shots, into people. "From today we're going to boost the booster campaign," Johnson said.
The omicron variant's appearance brought up the issue of uneven access to vaccines around the world. Some experts said the hoarding of vaccines by wealthy countries could prolong the pandemic, per the AP. There are populations that haven't received any vaccine, often including health care workers. Less than 6% of the population in Africa has had even the first dose. The virus can spread quickly through unvaccinated populations, making it easier for new variants to evolve. "The WHO warning that none of us is safe until all of us are safe and should be heeded," said an expert in London. (Read more COVID variants stories.)