After UK, these countries report cases of omicron variant of coronavirus

Updated on Nov 28, 2021 08:20 AM IST

The omicron variant has already been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Hong Kong, Britain and Israel, sparking global concern and a rush to ban travel.

Omicron was first identified in southern Africa just days ago and has since spread in several countries. (AP Photo)
Omicron was first identified in southern Africa just days ago and has since spread in several countries. (AP Photo)
By | Written by Meenakshi Ray, New Delhi

Omicron, the new potentially more contagious variant of the coronavirus, has been reported in more European countries after the United Kingdom, just days after being identified in South Africa, even as governments around the world are rushing to stop the spread.

The omicron variant has already been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Hong Kong, Britain and Israel, sparking global concern.

Many countries have already imposed travel restrictions on flights from southern Africa amid fears omicron variant has the potential to be more resistant to the protection offered by available vaccines. However, experts have said such restrictions may be too late to stop omicron from circulating globally

Countries are on high alert even as the coronavirus pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 5 million people around the world.

Czech Republic

The spokesperson of a regional hospital in the northern Czech city of Liberec confirmed the new omicron strain in a woman.

"My colleagues from the department of genetics and molecular diagnostics confirmed the strain with 90-per cent probability after a sequence analysis," Vaclav Ricar told Czech Television Saturday, according to the Associated Press.

Also read | Saudi Arabia to ease Covid curbs for travellers from all countries

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis has said the woman visited Namibia and flew back to the Czech Republic via South Africa and Dubai. The woman, Babis said, was vaccinated and had mild symptoms of the disease.

Ricar said the sample would now be analysed by the national reference laboratory. "But the result is already very precise," Ricar said.

Italy

The Italian news agency LaPresse said an Italian who travelled to Mozambique has tested positive for the omicron variant. The business traveller landed in Rome on November 11 and returned to his home near Naples.

Five family members, including two children, have also tested positive. All are isolating in the Naples suburb of Caserta in good condition with light symptoms.

Also read | Two from South Africa test Covid positive in Bengaluru amid Omicron concerns

The variant was confirmed by Sacco hospital in Milan, and Italy’s National Health Institute said the man had received two doses of the vaccine.

Germany

The omicron variant was confirmed in two travellers who arrived on a flight from South Africa on November 24, Munich-based microbiology centre, the Max von Pettenkofer Institute, said.

Oliver Keppler, the institute’s head, said that genome sequencing has yet to be completed, but it is “proven without doubt that it is this variant,” German news agency dpa reported.

Also watch | South Africa eyewitness on new Covid variant Omicron impact. Should India worry?

The Dutch public health institute said the omicron variant was “probably found in a number of the tested persons” who were isolated after arriving Friday in Amsterdam on two flights from South Africa. (AP) MGA MGA

UK

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was necessary to take “targeted and precautionary measures” as the UK tightened up rules on Saturday on mask-wearing and on testing of international arrivals after finding two cases of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Also read | Omicron: Why easing of international travel curbs has come under review

“Right now this is the responsible course of action to slow down the seeding and the spread of this new variant and to maximise our defences,” he told a news conference.

Israel

Israel has so far confirmed one case of omicron, with seven suspected cases. The Health Ministry has not said whether the confirmed case was vaccinated.

Three of the seven suspected cases were fully vaccinated, the ministry said on Saturday, and three had not returned from travel abroad recently.

Also read | South Africa health minister says travel ban over omicron is ‘unjustified’

Israel also said it was tracing 800 travellers who returned recently from southern African countries.

The Netherlands

The National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) said the omicron variant was “probably found in a number of the tested persons” who were isolated after arriving Friday in Amsterdam on two flights from South Africa.

Further sequencing analysis is underway to determine for sure that it is the new variant, the Dutch institute said in a statement. The results are expected on Sunday. A total of 61 people were tested.

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