LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Concern is growing around the world and here in Arkansas over the new omicron COVID-19 variant.

It was identified earlier this month in South Africa and has spread to every province there.

This led to a travel ban for those areas for people coming to the U.S.

President Joe Biden says the variant is a concern but not a cause for panic.

“We have the best vaccine in the world, the best medicines, the best scientists, and we’re learning more every single day,” Biden said. “And we’ll fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed, not chaos and confusion.”

The travel ban went into effect Monday.

So far, no COVID-19 cases due to the omicron variant have been reported in the U.S., but there has been a case reported in Ontario, Canada.

Health officials say depending on the characteristics of this variant, there could be future surges of the virus
As of now, the World Health Organization says the global risk is assessed as very high and this could lead to surges with “severe consequences.”

But local health officials say there are early signs of a powerful version of the virus and Arkansas needs to be prepared.

“This pandemic is like baseball, it is not over until it’s over and as much as we would like it to be over now it looks like we’re going into additional innings and we have got to get out there and get ready to play ball and deal with this variant,” said Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, chief medical officer & medical director for immunizations and outbreak response.

Dr. Dillaha says the best way to prepare is by getting not only your vaccine but the booster shot.

The U.S. along with the European Union members quickly moved to prohibit travelers from arriving from southern Africa.

There is still a lot of unknowns when it comes to this virus, but more information should be here in the coming days.