As more cases of the Omicron variant surface around the globe, the World Health Organization says the risk of further spread is high and could have severe consequences for some countries.

Iran PressEurope: The global risk of the new omicron variant is “very high,” the World Health Organization said Monday, as more countries reported cases of the variant, sparking worldwide concern that there is more pandemic suffering ahead.

The new variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 has appeared in at least 16 countries, including Canada, since it was detected by scientists in South Africa last week. Britain has reported 11 cases, including six in Scotland that have not been linked to travel from South Africa – an indication the virus has spread into the community, officials said.

“The emergence of the highly mutated Omicron variant underlines just how perilous and precarious our situation is,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday.

Governments have been racing to respond to Omicron, which scientists worry could be more transmissible than the Delta variant and better able to evade vaccines. Many countries have tightened travel restrictions to slow its spread, and some, such as Japan and Israel, have banned all foreign visitors. Others, such as Canada and the U.S., have prohibited travelers from a select list of African countries, including South Africa, or introduced strict quarantine measures.