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Prognosis

The Week That Covid Sucker Punched the World

New variant threat follows spike in cases in Europe

A worker sweeps around a closed Christmas market in central Vienna, Austria.

A worker sweeps around a closed Christmas market in central Vienna, Austria.

Photographer: Akos Stiller/Bloomberg

On Monday morning, Austria’s near-9 million residents woke to life in lockdown. Days later, a new Covid-19 variant set off alarm bells across the world, Europe and the U.S. slapped a travel ban on countries in Southern Africa and health officials raced to get ahead of a new threat.

It was the week the coronavirus reminded the world that the pandemic is far from over, delivering a combination punch of escalating infections, restrictions and a new mutation. The developments, marking a setback in the battle against the disease and a dent to the economic recovery, slammed equities and oil prices.