London/Amsterdam: The Omicron coronavirus spread around the world on Sunday, with new cases discovered in the Netherlands, Denmark and Australia even as more countries imposed travel restrictions to try to isolate themselves.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said it was not yet clear whether Omicron, first discovered in South Africa, was more transmissible than other variants, or whether it caused more serious disease.
“Preliminary data suggest that there are increasing rates of hospitalization in South Africa, but this may be due to increased overall numbers of people becoming infected, rather than as a result of a specific infection,” the WHO said.
The World Health Organization said it would take “days to several weeks” to understand the level of risk of Omicron.
Omicron’s discovery sparked global alarm as governments around the world scrambled to impose new travel restrictions and sell-off markets, fearing that the alternative could resist vaccines and upend an emerging economic reopening after a two-year global pandemic.
In its statement, the World Health Organization said it was working with technical experts to understand the potential impact of the variant on current countermeasures against COVID-19, including vaccines.
Britain said it would hold an urgent meeting of G7 health ministers on Monday to discuss developments.
Dutch health authorities said 13 cases of the variant had been found among people on two flights that arrived in Amsterdam from South Africa on Friday.
Authorities have tested all 600+ passengers on those two flights and found 61 cases of coronavirus, and are continuing to test for the new alternative.
“This may be the tip of the iceberg,” Health Minister Hugo de Jong told reporters in Rotterdam.
Omicron, which the World Health Organization called a “worrying alternative” last week that is potentially more contagious https://www.reuters.com/world/how-worried-should-we-be-about-omicron-variant-2021 -11 -27 of the earlier variants, have now been detected in Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Britain, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands and South Africa.
Many countries have imposed travel bans or restrictions on South Africa in an attempt to stem the spread of the disease. Financial markets fell on Friday, and oil prices tumbled.
A South African doctor who was among the first to suspect a different strain of coronavirus said https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/safrican-doctor-says-patients-with-omicron-variant-have-very-mild Symptoms – 11-28-2021 On Sunday, the symptoms of Omicron have so far been mild and can be treated at home.
Dr Angelique Coetzee, president of the South African Medical Association, told Reuters that unlike Delta, patients had not yet reported a loss of smell or taste and there was no significant drop in oxygen levels with the new variant.
In its most far-reaching effort to keep the variable at bay, Israel announced https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/israel-ban-entry-foreigners-all-countries-over-omicron-2021-11-27 at the time. Late Saturday, it will ban entry to all foreigners and will reuse anti-terror phone tracking technology to contain the spread of the alternative.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the ban, pending government approval, would last 14 days. Officials hope that during that time there will be more information about how effective the vaccines against Omicron are.
The chief US infectious disease official, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-should-be-prepared-do-anything-including-lockdowns-fight-omicron-fauci-2021 -11-28 Americans must be prepared to fight the spread of the new alternative, but it is not yet clear what action is needed such as mandates or shutdowns. He said the surrogate is likely already in the country, although no cases have been confirmed.
In Britain, the government has announced measures that include stricter testing rules for people arriving in the country and a requirement to wear masks in some places.
British Health Secretary Sajid Javid said on Sunday he expected advice soon on whether the government could expand a program to provide booster doses to fully vaccinated people, in a bid to weaken the effect of the alternative.
And more countries announced new travel restrictions on South African countries on Sunday, including Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.
South Africa has condemned the measures as unfair and potentially harmful to its economy, saying they punish its scientific ability to identify coronavirus variables early.
South Africa’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa, said on Sunday that his government was considering mandatory COVID-19 shots on people in certain places and activities, and criticized wealthy Western countries for recklessly imposing travel bans.
Ramaphosa said, “The travel ban is not based on science, and it will not be effective in preventing the spread of this type. The only thing it will do is to further damage the economies of the affected countries and undermine their ability to respond to the … epidemic.”
Omicron emerged because many countries in Europe are already battling an increase in COVID-19 infections, with some restrictions on social activity brought back in an effort to stem the spread.
The new alternative also highlighted the huge disparities in vaccination rates around the world. Even as many developed countries offer a third dose of a booster dose, less than 7% of people in poor countries have received their first dose of COVID-19, according to medical and rights groups.
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