What You Need to Know
- The World Health Organization has put the new variant in its top variant tracking category.
- The omicron variant appears to be spreading rapidly in South Africa.
- Belgium has confirmed finding the variant in a traveler flying in from Egypt who was tested Monday.
Stock prices plunged today and turmoil in other financial markets rose in response to fears that a fast-spreading COVID-19 variant could lead to a new wave of travel restrictions and social distancing efforts.
A technical advisory group affiliated with the World Health Organization sparked market turmoil by dubbing COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529 the “omicron” variant, and classifying the omicron variant as a “variant of concern.”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 905 points, or 2.53%, to 34,899.34.
The S&P 500 Index fell 2.27%, to 4,594.62.
Travel stocks performed especially poorly. Stocks of companies that have done well during lockdowns, such as Zoom, Moderna and Pfizer, performed well.
Volatility was also high in the bond and commodity markets.
The Omicron Variant
Public health officials have found signs that the omicron variant is spreading rapidly in South Africa.