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Nations around the world sought Monday to keep the new omicron variant at bay with travel bans and further restrictions, even as it remains unclear what it means for the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was first discovered 20 days ago in South Africa, but since then it has spread to six different countries, including Britain, Italy and Israel.

Director of Infection Prevention and Control at Mount Sinai, Dr. Waleed Javaid, discussed more on the variant and how it differs from previous ones.

According to Dr. Javaid, the number of people infected with omicron vary as it is still in the early stages of investigation, but the majority of the cases reported are in South Africa.

Omicron vs. delta variant

Dr. Javaid reminded viewers that the delta variant was not the first variant of the coronavirus and that it mutates by nature. 

What makes omicron different is the different type and number of mutations. Omicron seems to have more mutations than delta does.

The main concern is whether or not omicron will respond to medications and if it’s more transmissible. 

Omicron symptoms

Dr. Javaid said omicron is similar to other coronavirus symptoms, but it appears that illness seems milder.

Safety precautions against omicron

How can we keep ourselves safe?

“We already know what to do to protect ourselves,” Dr. Javaid said, emphasizing the importance of vaccinations.

“It thrives on people who are unvaccinated,” he said, urging people to get the vaccine and booster shots.

He also reminded that masking up is just as important.

Will COVID tests detect the new strain?

Dr. Javaid said there has been some concern that it may be missing one piece to help detect it in the PCR test, but they are still looking into everything, which will only help further develop research and future testing and treatment. 

Associated Press contributed to this report.