“The most significant variant to date” – that’s what a top UK health official called the newest COVID-19 variant to surface. Today, the World Health Organization announced that there is an Omicron variant of the coronavirus and has referred to it as a “variant of concern”. Thus far, early evidence suggests it is more transmissible and carries a higher risk of re-infection than other variants. The BBC reports that the variant has been found in South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong – and one case has been confirmed in Europe, in Belgium. In response to this development, the US, UK, EU states and Switzerland have all halted travel to and from seven African nations. Travel restrictions have also been announced by the UAE, Israel, Japan, Kenya and Singapore. For its part, the World Health Organization cautions against travel bans but, according to the BBC, the organization has held a special meeting to discuss the variant.