Scientists are racing to catch up with the policy response to the Omicron variant, as virologists study its many mutations and drugmakers test it against their Covid-19 vaccines and treatments.

Officials in South Africa and around the world have moved quickly to warn of Omicron’s potentially heightened infectiousness and to isolate travelers who may be infected with the variant. The rapid response stands in contrast to the handling of earlier variants including Delta, which drove a devastating wave in India months before the World Health Organization classified it a “variant of concern” and officials in the U.S. revisited guidelines on masking and other measures to contain its spread.

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