As scientists race to find out more about the Omicron variant, experts in South Africa say it appears to be re-infecting people at three times the rate of previous strains.
New data collected by South Africa's National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the Center for Epidemiological Modeling and Analysis, also showed Omicron can evade immunity from infection with earlier variants.
This means previous COVID-19 infection does not provide natural immunity against Omicron.
The country reported over 85-hundred new cases on Wednesday, up from some 4-thousand the day before and 2-thousand on Monday.
The variant is also spreading fast across Europe, being detected in 14 EU member-states.
The spread comes as the EU's agency for infectious disease control warned Thursday that the Omicron variant could become the dominant strain in Europe within months.
The EU is calling for a (quote) "multi-layered approach" to slow the spread, including inoculations for those who have not yet have a shot, boosters for people aged over 40 as well as social distancing.
Germany is implementing measures that focus on unvaccinated individuals, who account for about 30 percent of the nation's population.
These people will now be barred from shops and bars, unless they have recently recovered from COVID-19, while a nationwide vaccination mandate could be imposed from early next year.
In the U.S., President Biden expressed confidence the United States could fight the new variant with science and speed.
"But we have the best tools, the best vaccines in the world, the best medicine and the best scientists in the world. We're going to fight this variant with science and speed, not chaos and confusion. Just like we beat back COVID-19 in the spring, and the more powerful variant Delta variant in the summer and fall. As a result, we enter this winter from a position of strength compared to where America was last winter."
Instead of closing down the country's borders to contain Omicron, President Biden explained that travelers on airplanes, trains and buses will be required to wear face masks until mid-March.
He added that international travelers need to be tested a day before departing for the U.S, and said the country will speed up the rollout of booster shots.
The U.S. identified two more cases of the new strain on Thursday in Minnesota and Colorado, a day after one was confirmed in California.
The Minnesota patient recently returned from a crowded convention in New York City, while the Colorado patient recently traveled to southern Africa for a vacation.
Kim Hyo-sun, Arirang News.