“I think certainly caution is warranted to restrict travel and to watch this closely, but at the end of the day, we really need a lot more data to evaluate this new variant,” Philip A. Chan, an infectious disease doctor at Brown University who has helped lead the Covid-19 response for Rhode Island, said.

What we do know, he said, is that the Omicron variant seems to be overtaking the Delta variant in southern African countries, which suggest Omicron is more contagious and that it can overcome some of the natural immunity and vaccine immunity.

“Neither one of those things are good, obviously. And I think that those are the two reasons that have experts and scientists so concerned,” Dr. Chan said. But he still “urges caution and patience.”

“Let’s wait to see what the data shows. Let’s take appropriate precautions,” he said.

Dr. Chan also cautioned that without a robust global vaccination effort, “we are half-treating the pandemic” and leaving the world open to new and more transmittable variants.

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