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Omicron variant detected in more countries as scientists race to find answers

CoronavirusNov 28, 2021 06:08PM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Mounted police patrol through the city centre, as the state of New South Wales surpasses the 90 percent double-dose coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination target for its population aged 16 and over, in Sydney, Australia, November 9, 2021. 2/2

By Elizabeth Piper and Toby Sterling

LONDON/AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Omicron coronavirus variant spread around the world on Sunday, with new cases found in the Netherlands, Denmark and Australia even as more countries imposed travel restriction to try to seal themselves off.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said it was not yet clear whether Omicron, first detected in Southern Africa, is more transmissible than other variants, or if it causes more severe disease.

"Preliminary data suggests that there are increasing rates of hospitalization in South Africa, but this may be due to increasing overall numbers of people becoming infected, rather than a result of specific infection," WHO said.

It said understanding the level of severity of Omicron "will take days to several weeks".

The detection of Omicron triggered global alarm as governments around the world scrambled to impose new travel curbs and financial markets sold-off, fearing the variant could resist vaccinations and upend a nascent economic reopening after a two-year global pandemic.

In its statement, the WHO said it was working with technical experts to understand the potential impact of the variant on existing countermeasures against COVID-19, including vaccines.

Britain said it will convene an urgent meeting of G7 health ministers on Monday to discuss the developments.

Dutch health authorities said 13 cases of the variant were found among people on two flights that arrived in Amsterdam from South Africa on Friday. Authorities had tested all of the more than 600 passengers on the flights and found 61 coronavirus cases, going on to test those for Omicron.

"This could possibly be the tip of the iceberg," Health Minister Hugo de Jonge told reporters.

Dutch military police said they arrested a married couple who left a hotel where they were in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19, and were attempting to flee the country.

Omicron, dubbed a "variant of concern" last week by the WHO that is potentially more contagious than previous variants, has now been detected in Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Britain, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, France, Canada and South Africa.

Many countries have imposed travel bans or curbs on Southern Africa to try to stem the spread. Financial markets dived on Friday, and oil prices tumbled.

A South African doctor who was one of the first to suspect a different coronavirus strain said on Sunday that symptoms of Omicron were so far mild and could be treated at home.

Dr. Angelique Coetzee, chair of South African Medical Association, told Reuters that unlike with Delta, so far patients have not reported loss of smell or taste and there has been no major drop in oxygen levels with the new variant.

ISRAELI MEASURES

In the most far-reaching effort to keep the variant at bay, Israel announced late on Saturday it would ban the entry of all foreigners and reintroduce counter-terrorism phone-tracking technology to contain the spread of the variant.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the ban, pending government approval, would last 14 days. Officials hope that within that period there will be more information on how effective vaccines are against Omicron.

The top U.S. infectious disease official, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told President Joe Biden on Sunday it will take about two weeks to have more definitive information about the transmissibility and other characteristics of Omicron, the White House said in a statement, adding that Fauci believes existing vaccines "are likely to provide a degree of protection against severe cases of COVID".

Biden will give an update on the new variant and the U.S. response on Monday, the White House said.

In Britain, the government has announced measures including stricter testing rules for people arriving in the country and requiring mask wearing in some settings.

More countries announced new travel curbs on southern African nations on Sunday, including Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.

South Africa has denounced the measures as unfair and potentially harmful to its economy, saying it is being punished for its scientific ability to identify coronavirus variants early.

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday that his government was considering imposing compulsory COVID-19 shots for people in certain places and activities, and he slammed rich Western countries for what he called their knee-jerk imposition of travel bans.

"The prohibition of travel is not informed by science, nor will it be effective in preventing the spread of this variant," Ramaphosa said. "The only thing (it) ... will do is to further damage the economies of the affected countries and undermine their ability to respond to ... the pandemic."

Omicron has emerged as many countries in Europe are already battling a surge in COVID-19 infections, with some reintroducing restrictions on social activity to try to stop the spread.

The new variant has also thrown a spotlight on huge disparities in vaccination rates around the globe. Even as many developed countries are giving third-dose boosters, less than 7% of people in poorer countries have received their first COVID-19 shot, according to medical and human rights groups.

Omicron variant detected in more countries as scientists race to find answers
 

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Comments (21)
Keith Friedly
Keith Friedly Nov 28, 2021 9:29PM ET
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let this thing just run its course already. it's the only way we'll ever get herd immunity.
MuraliKrishna Brahmandam
MuraliKrishna Brahmandam Nov 28, 2021 8:36PM ET
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Scientists and doctors and nurses and hospitals need new viruses to support the new life style they got used since Covid
James Gomez
James Gomez Nov 28, 2021 6:57PM ET
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All you need is Menudo, Sprite and Vicks....Orale!!! 😎🤣
Ric Later
riclater211 Nov 28, 2021 6:56PM ET
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they will always use the flu boogie man until people ignore the lie
Pól Hansen
Pól Hansen Nov 28, 2021 6:25PM ET
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Sorry but who give a ****? Get the vaccine and get this pandemic over with
Ric Later
riclater211 Nov 28, 2021 6:25PM ET
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if it was effective maybe. but it's not
Whaling Trawler
Whaling Trawler Nov 28, 2021 4:25PM ET
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As long as the governments stand down and mind their business we'll be just fine...
BigPoppa Jcamp
BigPoppa Jcamp Nov 28, 2021 4:12PM ET
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the only people that care about this are Reuters and the sheep that hold religiously to the legacy/corporate media
Matt Brackley
Matt Brackley Nov 28, 2021 3:18PM ET
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symptoms lesser than a cold...lol
Ali Karimzadeh
Ali Karimzadeh Nov 28, 2021 12:58PM ET
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Read what south african doctors are saying. The symptoms are very mild. It seems people over reacted. Even people with normal cold and flue can have worser symptoms. Naturally the virus will change so that it does not ***the host (human). Otherwise the virus itself is killed too. This is natural.
Roger Miller
Roger Miller Nov 28, 2021 12:31PM ET
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Could it be that Africans are less suspectible to the virus and don’t see a big need for vacinations. It’s in the west, and cultures where obesiety and unhealthy lifestyles are making it so dangerous. Remember at the start most experts were saying the virus would ravage Africa.
cc cc
cc cc Nov 28, 2021 12:24PM ET
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the most ridiculous sentence is at the very end "As long as large portion...."...only vaccinated people can trave (by plane)l, so all people found positive at these airports are surely fully vaccinated.
John Berry
John Berry Nov 28, 2021 9:47AM ET
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Another scare tactic by governments around the world. Who cares.
Chris Sundo
Chris Sundo Nov 28, 2021 9:44AM ET
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Most people know that taking vitamins and supplements has only a 10-15% effect. Similarly with vaccination. It was stated everywhere that vaccination is just ONE TOOL and not a replacement for the 3 musketeers of anti-covid techniques (effective mouth and nose covering with a mask, hand-washing, and 2-meter social distancing). Whereby I must add: the governments of the world did a lousy job in explaining and mandating that once people reach their home entrance door they must effectively de-contaminate. Coz once you bring a covid virus into your home and spread it around due to INEFFECTIVE decontamination techniques, man, you're opening yourself up to becoming a covid victim. Good luck protecting yourself from an invisible invader.
jj mm
jj mm Nov 28, 2021 9:17AM ET
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I have a question. what happened with Alpha Beta Delta and so on? They are extinguished? they are not dangerous anymore? The only variant that matters is Omicron? ********??
jj mm
jj mm Nov 28, 2021 9:08AM ET
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shout Africa says it is not dangerous but here in Europe I don't know why they keep saying it's super dangerous. What's going on?
John Tierney
John Tierney Nov 28, 2021 8:35AM ET
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Yes we all know its not deadly and will spread everywhere. Yawn no new news.
Ricky Singh
Ricky Singh Nov 28, 2021 8:07AM ET
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Ofcourse the virus exists but super strange that approved vaccines cant control it yet ! Even the vaccinated are getting sick again so why the hype ? Does closing businesses and making people suffer controls the situation? We all need to accept that this is new normal and need to continue life and not be in cage because there is no guarantee someone cannot contract this at home and no one is capable to stay locked all life !These companies making money on hand sanitizers promoting the product but you know that’s antibacterial and cant help against viruses !Wake up people , dont live in fear but instead take vaccine and uour vitamins etc and continue life . More will die with stress and from other reasons than this virus
Whaling Trawler
Whaling Trawler Nov 28, 2021 7:13AM ET
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C hicken noodle soup. Vitamine C and D here I come...
sanda man
sanda man Nov 28, 2021 6:10AM ET
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Hospitals in Holland are cancelling surgeries again and are set to enter "code black" in next weeks. The army is now involved, administering booster shots to the elderly. If you still think this is a hoax, you're in the wrong bubble and should reconsider your social circle.
Matt Brackley
Matt Brackley Nov 28, 2021 6:10AM ET
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so sad ;)
George Morales
George Morales Nov 28, 2021 5:48AM ET
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Surely they are using more advanced testing systems than the faulty Covid test we all have be forced to take. Amazing how science was able to produce a testing product so fast, meanwhile the standard covid test still spits out false positive results. They ain't fooling anyone with common sense.
Ric Later
riclater211 Nov 28, 2021 5:13AM ET
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yea right. fake news
 
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