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Yes, a new variant has emerged. On Friday, the WHO designated a fourth, possibly more transmissible “variant of concern”—B.1.1.529 or Omicron—after a steep increase in COVID-19 infections in South Africa.
Health officials have detected the variant in Belgium, Britain Botswana, Hong Kong, Israel, and the United Kingdom. As of Friday, there have been no cases of Omicron detected in the United States, according to the CDC.