- Thirteen cases found in the Netherlands
- Two cases detected in Australia, two in Denmark
- Israel announces it bans foreigners for two weeks
- May take a long time to assess the harmfulness of Omicron – Chinese expert
- Fauci says Americans must be prepared to fight the spread
LONDON / AMSTERDAM, November 28 (Reuters) – The Omicron variant of the coronavirus continued to spread around the world on Sunday, with 13 cases found in the Netherlands and two each in Denmark and Australia even as more countries imposed travel restrictions in an attempt to close.
Dutch health authorities said the 13 cases of the variant were found among people on two flights between South Africa and Amsterdam on Friday.
Authorities had tested all of the more than 600 passengers on those two flights and found 61 cases of the coronavirus, then tested them for the new variant.
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“It is not unlikely that more cases will appear in the Netherlands,” Health Minister Hugo de Jonge told a press conference in Rotterdam. “This could be the tip of the iceberg.” Read more
The discovery of Omicron, labeled a ‘worrying variant’ last week by the World Health Organization, raised concerns around the world that it could withstand vaccinations and prolong the COVID-19 pandemic by nearly two years.
First discovered in South Africa, it has now been detected in Britain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Botswana, Israel, Australia and Hong Kong.
Omicron is potentially more contagious than previous variants, although experts are not yet sure whether it will cause COVID-19 to be more or less severe compared to other strains.
Many countries have imposed travel bans or restrictions on southern Africa in an attempt to stem the spread. Financial markets plunged on Friday as investors feared the variant could block a global recovery. Oil prices have fallen by about $ 10 a barrel.
Most Gulf stock markets ended lower on Sunday, with the Saudi and Dubai indices suffering their largest single-day drop in nearly two years. Read more
In the new cases detected on Sunday, Denmark said it had recorded two cases in travelers from South Africa, while Australian officials said two passengers arriving in Sydney from southern Africa had tested positive for the variant.
Austria was investigating a suspected case and in France Health Minister Olivier Veran said the variant was probably already circulating there.
In the most ambitious effort to keep the variant at bay, Israel announced on Saturday evening that it would ban the entry of all foreigners and reintroduce anti-terrorism phone tracking technology to contain the spread of the variant.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the ban, pending government approval, would last 14 days. Officials hope that during this period there will be more information about the effectiveness of vaccines against Omicron. Read more
Senior US infectious disease official Anthony Fauci has said Americans should be prepared to fight the spread of the new variant, but it is too early to say what actions are needed, including any warrants or blockages. Read more
In Britain, where two related Omicron cases identified on Saturday were linked to a trip to southern Africa, the government announced measures to try to contain the spread, including stricter testing rules for people arriving in the country and requiring the wearing of a mask in certain contexts.
UK Health Minister Sajid Javid said on Sunday he expected to receive advice imminently on whether the government can expand a booster vaccination program to fully vaccinated people, in an attempt to ” mitigate the impact of the variant. Read more
Zhong Nanshan, a Chinese respiratory disease expert, said it may take some time to come to a conclusion about the harmfulness of the new variant, state television reported on Sunday.
Although epidemiologists say travel restrictions may be too late to prevent Omicron from circulating, many countries – including the United States, Brazil, Canada, European Union countries, Australia, Japan, South Korea and Thailand – have announced bans or restrictions on travel from South Africa. and other countries in southern Africa.
Other countries imposed such restrictions on Sunday, including Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.
The South African government has denounced the travel measures as unfair and potentially damaging to its economy, saying it is being punished for its scientific ability to identify variants of the coronavirus at an early stage.
Mexico’s Deputy Health Secretary Hugo Lopez Gatell said the travel restrictions were of little use, calling the measures taken by some countries “disproportionate.”
“It (Omicron) has not been shown to be more virulent or to escape the immune response induced by vaccines. They affect the economy and the well-being of people,” he said on Saturday.
Omicron emerged as many countries in Europe are already battling an increase in COVID-19 infections, with some reintroducing restrictions on social activities to try to stop the spread.
The new variant also highlighted huge disparities in vaccination rates around the world. Even though many developed countries administer third-dose boosters, less than 7% of people in poorer countries have received their first injection of COVID-19, according to medical and human rights groups.
Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Vaccine Alliance which, along with the WHO, co-leads the COVAX initiative to push for equitable distribution of vaccines, said this was essential to prevent the emergence of more variants of the coronavirus. .
“Although we still need to know more about Omicron, we know that until a large part of the world’s population is vaccinated, variants will continue to appear and the pandemic will continue to extend,” a- he told Reuters on Saturday.
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Reporting by Elizabeth Piper, Dan Williams, Melanie Burton, Kevin Yao and Reuters offices, written by Frances Kerry, edited by Mark Heinrich, Raissa Kasolowsky and Angus MacSwan
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