The Hague, Netherlands – Omicron type cases coronavirus Countries on opposite sides of the world popped up on Sunday and several governments rushed to close their borders, even as scientists cautioned it was unclear if the new version compared to other versions of the virus. is more dangerous.
The variant was identified a few days ago by researchers in South Africa, and much is still not known about it, including whether it is more contagious, more likely to cause serious illness, or the safety of vaccines. more able to escape. But many countries rushed to act, reflecting concerns about anything that could prolong the pandemic that has killed more than 5 million people.
Israel decided to bar the entry of foreigners, and Morocco said it would suspend all incoming flights for two weeks starting Monday – amid a growing raft of travel restrictions being imposed by countries around the world. The harshest as they melee slow Variant spread. Scientists from many places from Hong Kong to Europe have confirmed its presence. The Netherlands reported 13 omicron cases on Sunday, and Australia found two.
Noting that the variant has already been detected in many countries and that closing borders often has limited effect, the World Health Organization called for borders to remain open.
Meanwhile, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health in the United States, emphasized that there is no data yet to suggest that the new variant causes more severe disease than previous COVID-19 variants. .
“I think it’s more contagious when you look at how fast it’s spread in many districts of South Africa. So it’s particularly likely to spread from person to person. … we don’t know whether it can compete with Delta,” Collins said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Collins echoed several experts in saying the news should redouble their efforts to use the equipment the world already has, including measures such as vaccinations, booster shots and wearing masks.
“I know, America, you’re really tired of hearing those things, but the virus isn’t getting tired of us,” Collins said.
The Dutch public health authority confirmed on Friday that 13 people who arrived from South Africa have so far tested positive for Omicron. They were among 61 people who tested positive for the virus after arriving on the last two flights to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport before the flight ban came into force. They were immediately isolated, mostly in a nearby hotel.
Authorities in Australia said two passengers who arrived in Sydney from Africa became the first in the country to test positive for the new variant. Arrivals from nine African countries are now required to quarantine in a hotel upon arrival. Two German states reported a total of three cases in return of travelers over the weekend.
moved to israel To ban the entry of foreigners and make quarantine mandatory for all Israelis coming from abroad.
“Restrictions on the country’s borders is not an easy step, but it is a temporary and necessary step,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.
Morocco’s foreign ministry tweeted on Sunday that all incoming air travel into the North African country would be suspended “to preserve the achievements made by Morocco in the fight against the pandemic and protect the health of citizens”. Morocco has been at the forefront of vaccination in Africa, and kept its borders closed for months in 2020 because of the pandemic.
America plan to ban Travel from South Africa and seven other southern African countries is starting from Monday.
The United States’ top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said of the ban on ABC’s “This Week,” “It’s going to give us time to step up our preparedness.”
Many countries are imposing such restrictions, although they go against the advice of the WHO, which has warned against any overreaction before the variant is fully studied.
South Africa’s government reacted angrily to the travel restrictions, which amounted to “punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and ability to rapidly detect new variants.” It said it would try to persuade the countries that imposed it to reconsider.
The WHO issued a statement saying it “stands with African countries” and noting that travel restrictions “may play a role in slightly reducing the spread of COVID-19, but could put a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods”. ” It said that if sanctions are imposed, they should be scientifically based and not intrusive.
In Europe, much of which is already grappling with a sharp rise in cases in recent weeks, officials were cautious.
The UK on Saturday tightened rules on the wearing of masks and testing international arrivals after two micron cases were detected, but British Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the government could resume work from home or take more serious social-distancing measures. had nowhere to go.
“We now know that in terms of non-COVID health outcomes, such as the impact on mental health, those kinds of measures have a very heavy cost, economically, socially,” he told Sky News.
Spain announced it would not accept unvaccinated British visitors from 1 December. Italy was looking at the list of airline passengers arriving in the past two weeks. France is rolling out vaccinations and booster shots.
David Hui, a respiratory medicine specialist and government adviser on the pandemic in Hong Kong, agreed with that strategy.
He said two people who tested positive for the Omron variant had received Pfizer PFE.
Vaccinated and displayed very mild symptoms, such as sore throat.
“The vaccines should work but there will be some reduction in effectiveness,” he said.