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EXPLAINER: What we know and don’t know on new COVID variant

By MARIA CHENG
AP Medical Writer

LONDON (AP) — South African scientists identified a new version of the coronavirus that they say is behind a recent spike in COVID-19 infections in Gauteng, the country’s most populous province. It’s unclear where the new variant first emerged, but scientists in South Africa alerted the World Health Organization in recent days, and it has now been seen in travelers arriving in several countries, from Australia to Israel to the Netherlands. On Friday, the WHO designated it as a “variant of concern,” naming it “omicron” after a letter in the Greek alphabet. Much is still not known about the new variant, including how contagious it is and how well vaccines work against it.

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