The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the Omicron coronavirus variant poses a high risk of infection surges around the globe.
The WHO on Monday said the variant could lead to severe consequences in some regions.
The head of the organisation, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, renewed a call for a global push to get vaccines to poorer nations.
He warned that COVID-19 still remains a threat.
"We shouldn't need another wake up call. We should all be wide awake to the threat of this virus, but Omicron's very emergence is another reminder that although many of us might think we're done with COVID-19, it's not done with us. We're living through a cycle of panic and neglect. Hard won gains could vanish in an instant. Our most immediate task, therefore, is to end this pandemic," he suggested.
The variant was detected in South Africa earlier this month with initial evidence suggesting it has a higher re-infection risk.
The WHO said Omicron has an unprecedented number of spike mutations, some of which are concerning for their potential impact on the trajectory of the pandemic.
Cases have already been reported in a number of countries including Canada, the UK, Portugal, Belgium and the Netherlands.
US President Joe Biden on Monday urged Americans to remain calm as scientists work to determine the strength and the transmissibility of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, saying the US has the ability to deal with the new strain that is circulating across the globe.
The president, flanked by chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci and Vice President Kamala Harris, told Americans the variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic.
He said the US has more tools to fight COVID-19 than ever before, and is in a much better position to fight the virus than it was a year ago.
The president said he will release a more detailed strategy on Thursday for fighting COVID-19 and the Omicron variant in the weeks ahead.
"In the event, hopefully unlikely, that updated vaccinations or boosters are needed to respond to this new variant, we will accelerate their development and deployment with every available tool," he said.
"I want to reiterate, Dr. Fauci believes that the current vaccines provide at least some protection against a new variant and the boosters strengthen that protection significantly. We do not yet believe that additional measures will be needed, but so that we are prepared if needed, my team is already working with officials at Pfizer and Moderna and Johnson and Johnson to develop contingency plans for vaccines or boosters if needed," Mr. Biden added.