WASHINGTON/BERLIN, Dec 2 (Reuters) – The United States reported its first known case of community transmission of Omicron on Thursday hours before President Joe Biden was due to lay out his strategy to fight the coronavirus in the winter as the highly contagious variant spread across the globe.
With authorities around the world scrambling to contain the spread of Omicron, the public health department in the northern U.S. state of Minnesota said a fully vaccinated adult male who had recently traveled to New York City had been infected.
The person told state health investigators he attended the Anime NYC 2021 convention at the Javits Center from Nov. 19 to 21 and developed mild symptoms on Nov. 22.
“We are aware of a case of the Omicron variant identified in Minnesota that is associated with travel to a conference in New York City, and we should assume there is community spread of the variant in our city,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
“We are working closely with the State and the CDC, as well as the Javits Center’s event organizers, and our Test and Trace Corps will be contacting conference attendees,” he said in a statement.
The Omicron variant could slow global economic growth by exacerbating supply chain problems and depressing demand, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told the Reuters Next conference on Thursday.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty, but it could cause significant problems. We’re still evaluating that,” she said.
Germany announced it would bar the unvaccinated from all but essential businesses such as grocery stores and pharmacies, while legislation to make vaccination mandatory will be drafted for early next year.
“We have understood that the situation is very serious,” Chancellor Angela Merkel told a news conference.
A nationwide vaccination mandate could take effect from February 2022 after it is debated in the Bundestag and after guidance from Germany’s Ethics Council, she said.
Eager to avoid derailing a fragile recovery of Europe’s biggest economy, Germany kept businesses open to the almost 69% of the population that is fully vaccinated as well as those with proof of having recovered from the virus.
Biden was due to speak at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) to announce steps including extending requirements for travelers to wear masks through mid-March.
By early next week, the United States will require inbound international travelers to be tested for COVID-19 within a day of departure, regardless of vaccination status.
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