More European international locations discover Omicron circumstances as concern grows

The United Kingdom, Germany and Italy have grow to be the newest international locations to detect circumstances of the brand new Omicron coronavirus variant, whereas extra nations imposed restrictions on travel from international locations in southern Africa regardless of their protestations and towards the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Omicron, designated a “variant of concern” by the United Nations’ well being company, is probably extra contagious than earlier variants, though consultants have no idea but if it would trigger kind of extreme COVID-19 in contrast with different strains.

The two Omicron circumstances discovered within the UK on Saturday have been related to travel to southern Africa, British Health Minister Sajid Javid stated.

Speaking later, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined measures that included stricter testing rules for folks arriving within the nation however which stopped in need of curbs on social exercise aside from requiring masks sporting in some settings.

“We will require anyone who enters the UK to take a PCR test by the end of the second day after their arrival and to self-isolate until they have a negative result,” Johnson advised a information convention.

People who had come into contact with folks testing optimistic for a suspected case of Omicron must self-isolate for 10 days and the federal government would tighten up the rules on sporting face coverings, Johnson stated, including the steps can be reviewed in three weeks.

The well being ministry within the German state of Bavaria additionally introduced two confirmed circumstances of the variant. The two folks entered Germany at Munich airport on November 24, earlier than Germany designated South Africa as a virus-variant space, and have been now isolating, the ministry stated, indicating with out stating explicitly that the folks had travelled from South Africa.

In Italy, the National Health Institute stated a case of the brand new variant had been detected in Milan in an individual coming from Mozambique.

Czech well being authorities additionally stated they have been analyzing a suspected case of the variant in an individual who frolicked in Namibia.

Dutch well being authorities, in the meantime, stated Omicron was “probably” amongst among the 61 passengers who examined optimistic after arriving on two flights from South Africa.

England’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Witty, stated on the identical information convention as Johnson that there was nonetheless a lot uncertainty about Omicron, however “there is a reasonable chance that at least there will be some degree of vaccine escape with this variant”.

Oksana Pyzik, of the University College London School of Pharmacy, advised Al Jazeera that it’ll take weeks of research for scientists to find out the severity of signs attributable to Omicron.

“This variant was discovered very early, which is great but the tradeoff on that is that it will take some time for further understanding,” Pyzik stated.

“If anything we’ve learned throughout the pandemic so far is that acting early is key, so if there has been a false alarm on this, it gave countries enough time to prepare for a worst outcome scenario – which, if we go back to March 2020, many countries did not.”

Travel curbs

The variant, which has a number of mutations that will carry the chance of reinfection, was first found by scientists in South Africa and has additionally since been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong.

The WHO has cautioned that it may take a number of weeks to seek out out whether or not the newly found mutations made the virus extra virulent or transmissible.

And though epidemiologists say travel curbs could also be too late to cease Omicron from circulating globally, many international locations world wide – together with the United States, Brazil, Canada and European Union nations – introduced travel bans or restrictions on southern Africa on Friday.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and State Department added on Saturday to Washington’s beforehand introduced travel restrictions, advising towards travel to eight southern African international locations.

Also on Saturday, Australia stated it will ban non-citizens who’ve been in 9 southern African international locations from coming into and would require supervised 14-day quarantines for Australian residents getting back from there.

The UK stated it was increasing its “red list” to place travel curbs on extra southern African international locations, whereas South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Oman, Kuwait and Hungary introduced travel restrictions on southern African nations.

In South Africa, there have been worries the travel curbs would damage tourism and different sectors of its pandemic-hit financial system, drawing criticism by officers and scientists who stated the measures have been unjustified.

“The government says South Africa has been at the forefront of testing and tracking the changes in COVID-19, and scientists have stressed it’s important to see what the data on the new variant will show before making any decisions,” stated Al Jazeera’s Fahmida Miller, reporting from Johannesburg. “And that sentiment has trickled down to the general public where many believe South Africa is being treated unfairly.”

In an announcement on Saturday, South Africa’s overseas ministry stated strikes by many international locations to ban flights from southern Africa following the invention of the variant “is akin to punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker”.

“Excellent science should be applauded and not punished,” it stated.

The ministry identified that new variants had been found in different elements of the world.

“Each of those cases have had no recent links with Southern Africa, but the reaction to those countries is starkly different to cases in Southern Africa,” it stated.

Omicron has emerged as many international locations in Europe are already battling a surge in COVID-19 infections, and a few have reintroduced restrictions on social exercise to attempt to cease the unfold. Austria and Slovakia have entered lockdowns.

The discovery of the variant additionally sparked a sell-off on monetary markets on Friday as buyers fearful that Omicron may stall a worldwide restoration from the nearly two-year pandemic.