The new Omicron version of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, considered “of concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO), was detected on Saturday in Great Britain, Germany and Italy, Belgium and Denmark. European countries are taking action to deal with this.
In London, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a series of targeted measures to contain the spread of this new variant, including the introduction of mandatory screening tests for anyone coming into the territory of the United Kingdom.
Several countries have imposed travel restrictions starting Friday in South Africa, where the version b.220.127.116.119 was identified by the WHO before being renamed Omicron, and in other countries in southern Africa.
The US State Department on Saturday advised against travel to South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi, Lesotho, Estwatini and Botswana.
A “worrisome” version of the WHO
The discovery of this fifth “worrying” version of the coronavirus plunged financial markets on Friday, worried about possible economic repercussions.
Omicron is considered potentially more infectious than its predecessors, even though the scientific community insists that it will take weeks to fully understand its mutation.
Health officials are also investigating whether existing vaccines are effective against him.
Discovered in South Africa, the new variant has also been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong.
In Britain, two cases of contamination with the Omicron variant were reported in Chelmsford and Nottingham in central England.
61 passengers screened in Amsterdam
In Germany, two cases have been confirmed in Bavaria. Two infected people arrived at Munich airport on 24 November, before South Africa was designated a different virus zone by health officials. He was kept in solitary confinement.
In Italy, a suspected case was detected in a traveler returning from Mozambique by a laboratory at the Luigi-Saco Hospital in Milan.
In the Czech Republic, health officials are investigating a suspected case in a traveler living in Namibia.
In the Netherlands, authorities announced on Saturday that 61 passengers on a flight that arrived in Amsterdam from South Africa on Friday had tested positive for the coronavirus. Tests are underway to verify if they are carriers of the new version.
Among them are several possible cases of the novel variant, according to Dutch health officials.
Spain beware of the British
Spain, for its part, announced that British tourists would no longer be allowed into its territory without providing proof of vaccination.
Until now, the British could travel to Spain with full proof of vaccination against COVID or with a negative result of a PCR test done 72 hours before their arrival.
Spanish health officials said “the presence of the new variant forces a ban” on UK citizens.
The new measure does not affect the roughly 300,000 British residents in Spain.
South Africa cut off from the world
From Friday, states including the United States, European Union countries, Brazil, Canada, Australia, Japan have limited or suspended their air links with South Africa and other countries in southern Africa.
Several countries in Europe have been facing a new wave of the COVID-19 pandemic for several weeks now and many of them have already taken measures to strengthen social distancing. Austria and Slovakia have regained control.
South Africa believes it is being punished for its ability to detect new coronavirus variants quickly as restrictions imposed around the world threaten its tourism sector and other parts of its economy.
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