Dutch find older cases of Omicron

The Netherlands has found cases of the new Covid variant even before South Africa alerted the WHO.
People wait in front of an "Appointment Desk" for quarantine and coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test appointments inside Schiphol Airport, after Dutch health authorities said that 61 people who arrived in Amsterdam on flights from South Africa tested positive for COVID-19, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, November 27, 2021. REUTERS/Eva Plevier
People wait in front of an "Appointment Desk" for quarantine and coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test appointments inside Schiphol Airport, after Dutch health authorities said that 61 people who arrived in Amsterdam on flights from South Africa tested positive for COVID-19, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, November 27, 2021. REUTERS/Eva Plevier
Published on Dec 01, 2021 03:23 AM IST
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Dutch health authorities said on Tuesday that the Omicron variant was present in the Netherlands earlier than previously thought, before South Africa had first reported the new strain of Covid-19.

The variant was found in two test samples from November 19 and 23, with one having no travel history, suggesting that the variant is already circulating in the Netherlands, the RIVM public health institute said.

The first Omicron cases in the Netherlands were previously believed to have been the cluster of 14 among passengers on two flights from South Africa that arrived on Amsterdam on Friday.

The Netherlands now joins other European countries including Belgium and Germany that have reported cases of the new strain before it was officially notified by South Africa to the World Health Organization on November 24.

“We found two additional cases of Omicron variant which have been sampled on the 19th and 23rd of November,” RIVM infectious diseases chief Aura Timen told AFP.

“So that points at the presence already of this variant in the Netherlands.”

Authorities in the eastern German city of Leipzig, meanwhile, said on Tuesday they had confirmed an infection with the Omicron variant in a 39-year-old man who had neither been abroad nor had contact with anyone who had been, news agency dpa reported.

Leipzig is in the eastern state of Saxony, which currently has Germany’s highest overall coronavirus infection rates.

Meanwhile, Japan and France announced their first cases of the new variant on Tuesday.

French authorities confirmed its presence in the French island territory of Reunion in the Indian Ocean. Patrick Mavingui, a microbiologist at the island’s research clinic for infectious diseases, said the person who has tested positive for the new variant is a 53-year-old man who had travelled to Mozambique and stopped in South Africa before returning to Reunion.

The man was placed in quarantine. He has “muscle pain and fatigue”, Mavingui said, according to public television Reunion 1ere.

A day after banning all foreign visitors as an emergency precaution against the variant, Japan also confirmed its first case, in a visitor who had travelled from Namibia.

A government spokesperson said the patient, a man in his 30s, tested positive upon arrival at Narita airport on Sunday and was isolated and is being treated at a hospital.

44 new variant cases in European Union nations

The European Union has recorded at least 44 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in 11 countries, but so far all of those are asymptomatic or people with mild symptoms, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). “So far, no severe cases or deaths have been reported among these cases,” the ECDC said on Tuesday in an update on the variant, based on information from public sources.

It added that Omicron cases have also been identified in nine additional countries and territories.

Earlier, the European Medicines Agency said it would use expedited procedures to approve new vaccine versions in three to fourth months should the current ones prove insufficient to fight off Omicron.

WHO urges ‘rational’ steps against Omicron

The World Health Organization (WHO) called on Tuesday for countries to keep calm and take “rational” measures in response to the new, fast-spreading Covid variant Omicron, which has sparked global panic. “We call on all member states to take rational, proportional risk-reduction measures,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a briefing to countries.

Also Read | Blanket travel bans will not prevent Omicron spread, says WHO

The UN health agency has cautioned against such restrictions, fearing that blocking travel from countries where new variants are first spotted could be unfair and dissuade surveillance.

“I thank Botswana and South Africa for detecting, sequencing and reporting this variant so rapidly,” Tedros said, adding that it was “deeply concerning to me that those countries are now being penalised by others for doing the right thing”.

Will successfully hold Beijing Olympics: China

China has said it expects to hold the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February “smoothly” despite challenges arising as a result of the new variant. “I believe it will definitely pose some challenge to our efforts to prevent and control the virus, but as China has experience in preventing and controlling the coronavirus, I fully believe that China will be able to host the Winter Olympics as scheduled, smoothly and successfully,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian said at the daily ministry briefing on Tuesday.

 

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Tuesday, January 25, 2022