Omicron variant disrupts sporting events in Africa

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The omicron variant is already having an effect on the sports world, about 21 months after games and events were put on pause when the coronavirus pandemic first exploded.

Golf, cricket and rugby were the first major international sports to be affected by the new COVID-19 variant. Several European golfers withdrew from a DP World Tour tournament in Johannesburg, South Africa, while rugby games were postponed and the Dutch cricket team decided to defer their series against a South African team.

People lineup to get on an overseas flight at OR Tambo’s airport in Johannesburg, South Africa’, Friday Nov. 26, 2021. A slew of nations moved to stop air travel from southern Africa on Friday in reaction to news of a new, potentially more transmissible COVID-19 variant that has been detected in South Africa. Scientists say  it is a concern because of its high number of mutations and rapid spread among young people in Gauteng, the country’s most populous province.
(AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

A departures screen displays a cancelled flight to Johannesburg and a message to contact the airline for a scheduled flight to Capetown, at London’s Heathrow Airport, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021.
(AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

The Dutch cricket team said it would defer the three-match series with South Africa.

“We are saddened by these circumstances, but are grateful to Cricket South Africa for their assistance and understanding of our team’s position,” Dutch team CEO Jurgen Delfos said in a statement. “It must be made clear that the concerns are strictly over travel issues and how soon the team can get home and have nothing to do with the integrity of the Bio-Secure Environment (BSE) that CSA has successfully hosted. Our team has been pleased with every aspect of the organization of the tour and have been well-treated by our hosts.

“We have been looking forward to this series for some time and are keen on returning to South Africa in the near future.”

Nations took swift action Friday to halt air travel from southern Africa in reaction to news of the new variant.

Although the World Health Organization (WHO) cautioned against hastily imposing travel restrictions linked to the B.1.1.529 variant, warning officials to avoid “knee-jerk responses,” the 27-nation European Union said it would propose stopping air travel from southern Africa.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that flights “should be suspended until we have a clear understanding about the danger posed by this new variant, and travelers returning from this region should respect strict quarantine rules.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN that it’s a possibility but that scientists need to first determine whether the variant can evade antibodies created by vaccines and viral infection.

FILE – A sealed coffin containing the remains of a COVID-19 victim is stored in a refrigerated container in Johannesburg, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. A new coronavirus variant has been detected in South Africa that scientists say is a concern because of its high number of mutations and rapid spread among young people in Gauteng, the country’s most populous province.
(AP Photo/Jerome Delay, File)

“Obviously, as soon as we find out more information, we’ll make a decision as quickly as we possibly can,” the White House chief medical adviser on COVID-19 told “New Day” co-host Brianna Keilar. “You always put these things on the table, but you don’t want to say you’re going to do it until you have some scientific reason to do it. That’s the reason why we’re rushing now to get that scientific data to try and make an informed decision about something like that.”

Fox News’ Julia Musto and the AP contributed to this report.

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