The Covid B.1.1.529 mutation was first identified by South African and Botswanan scientists early last week. Within 72 hours, it had been renamed Omicron and designated the fifth variant of global concern. By last Friday, the first cases had been detected in Europe, and travel restrictions were being imposed.
Now, it seems, the variant may have been circulating in parts of the world for longer than anyone had previously realised.
Quite what the Omicron variant has in store for the world remains to be seen, but the winners and losers are again likely to fall along lines of rich and poor. For our big story, David Cox and Linda Geddes survey the uncertain landscape.
Then, in our longer-read section, the philosopher and author Kwame Anthony Appiah argues powerfully why the pandemic should be the basis for building a fairer global society.
The death last week of 27 people attempting to cross the Channel from France to Britain caused shock in both countries and resulted in yet more unseemly squabbling between Paris and London, where politicians are under extreme pressure to deliver on their promises to halt the crisis. Meanwhile, the human misery continues unabated at ramshackle camps such as those in Dunkirk, as the Observer’s Tim Adams discovers.
On Monday, Barbados lowered the Royal Standard and declared itself a republic, cutting ties with Queen Elizabeth as its head of state. Michael Safi was there to witness a cathartic moment in the Caribbean island’s history and find out how the move came about.
In our Culture section, there’s a throughly uplifting feature about how actors and performers with Down’s syndrome are breaking through to the mainstream. And we go behind the scenes of Moulin Rouge! – the musical version of the Baz Lurhmann movie that’s now running in London, New York and Melbourne.