Dozens of countries have introduced travel bans as governments digest the news that a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 had been identified. But is this an effective approach to manage the spread of Omicron, the name the World Health Organization has assigned to the new variant? Shabir Madhi argues not. All they do is delay the inevitable. Governments should rather impose rigorous exit and entry screening programmes to identify potential cases - and mandate vaccinations. Travel bans are on Madhi’s list of things that aren’t worth doing. He also spells out 10 steps worth pursuing.

For their part Wolfgang Preiser and his colleagues explain how scientists “hunt” for new coronavirus variants and share what they know already about this one.

Caroline Southey

Founding Editor

Scientists find variants by sequencing samples from people that have tested positive for the virus. Lightspring/Shutterstock

The hunt for coronavirus variants: how the new one was found and what we know so far

Prof. Wolfgang Preiser, Stellenbosch University; Cathrine Scheepers, University of the Witwatersrand; Jinal Bhiman, National Institute for Communicable Diseases; Marietjie Venter, University of Pretoria; Tulio de Oliveira, University of KwaZulu-Natal

There’s a new COVID lineage called B.1.1.529. It has a genetic profile very different from other circulating variants

What not to do: ban travel. Scenes at South Africa’s OR Tambo International airport after the first flight bans were announced. Phill Magakoe / AFP via Getty Images

Omicron is the new COVID kid on the block: five steps to avoid, ten to take immediately

Shabir A. Madhi, University of the Witwatersrand

The world needs to learn to live with the virus. And governments must follow the science and don’t distort it for political expediency.


Are new COVID variants like Omicron linked to low vaccine coverage? Here’s what the science says

Jennifer Juno, The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity; Adam Wheatley, The University of Melbourne

With low COVID vaccination coverage in southern Africa, some have suggested global vaccine inequities may be responsible for the emergence of Omicron.

To fight economic inequality, female dependency on relationships and gender-based violence, female education is critical. GULSHAN KHAN/AFP via Getty Images

How inequality drives HIV in adolescent girls and young women

Hilton Humphries, Centre for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA)

Adolescent girls and young women aged 15 to 24 accounted for 25% of new infections, while making up only 10% of the population.