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UK, Germany and Italy detect Omicron variant cases, Israel closes borders

WorldNov 27, 2021 08:10PM ET
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3/3 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Digital display boards show cancelled flights to London - Heathrow at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, November 26, 2021. REUTERS/ Sumaya Hisham/File Photo 2/3

By Costas Pitas, Madeline Chambers and Toby Sterling

LONDON/BERLIN/AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Britain, Germany and Italy detected cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant on Saturday and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new steps to contain the virus, while more nations imposed restrictions on travel from southern Africa.

The discovery of the variant has sparked global concern, a wave of travel bans or curbs and a sell-off on financial markets on Friday as investors worried that Omicron could stall a global recovery from the nearly two-year pandemic.

Israel said it would ban the entry of all foreigners into the country and reintroduce counter-terrorism phone-tracking technology to contain the spread of the variant.

The two linked cases of Omicron detected in Britain were connected to travel to southern Africa, British health minister Sajid Javid said.

Johnson laid out measures that included stricter testing rules for people arriving in the country but that stopped short of curbs on social activity other than requiring mask wearing 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 told a news conference.

People who had come into contact with people testing positive for a suspected case of Omicron would have to self-isolate for 10 days and the government would tighten the rules on wearing face coverings, Johnson said, adding the steps would be reviewed in three weeks.

The health ministry in the German state of Bavaria also announced two confirmed cases of the variant. The two people entered Germany at Munich airport on Nov. 24, before Germany designated South Africa as a virus-variant area, and were now isolating, said the ministry, indicating without stating explicitly that the people had travelled from South Africa.

In Italy, the National Health Institute said a case of the new variant had been detected in Milan in a person coming from Mozambique.

Czech health authorities also said they were examining a suspected case of the variant in a person who spent time in Namibia.

Omicron, dubbed a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization, is potentially more contagious than previous variants of the disease, although experts do not know yet if it will cause more or less severe COVID-19 compared to other strains.

England's Chief Medical Officer, Chris Witty, said at the same news conference as Johnson that there was still much uncertainty around Omicron, but "there is a reasonable chance that at least there will be some degree of vaccine escape with this variant".

The variant was first discovered in South Africa and had also since been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong.

FLIGHTS TO AMSTERDAM

Dutch authorities said 61 of around 600 people who arrived in Amsterdam on two flights from South Africa on Friday had tested positive for the coronavirus. Health authorities were carrying out further tests to see if those cases involved the new variant.

One passenger who arrived from South Africa on Friday, Dutch photographer Paula Zimmerman, said she tested negative but was anxious for the days to come.

"I’ve been told that they expect that a lot more people will test positive after five days. It's a little scary the idea that you’ve been in a plane with a lot of people who tested positive," she said.

Financial markets plunged on Friday, especially stocks of airlines and others in the travel sector. Oil prices tumbled by about $10 a barrel.

It could take weeks for scientists to understand fully the variant's mutations and whether existing vaccines and treatments are effective against it.

TRAVEL CURBS

Although epidemiologists say travel curbs may be too late to stop Omicron from circulating globally, many countries around the world - including the United States, Brazil, Canada and European Union nations - announced travel bans or restrictions on southern Africa on Friday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and State Department added on Saturday to Washington's previously announced travel restrictions, advising against travel to eight southern African countries.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris told reporters on Saturday that the administration will take it "one step at a time," when asked about additional travel restrictions. "For now we've done what we think is necessary," Harris said.

Also on Saturday, Australia said it would ban non-citizens who have been in nine southern African countries from entering and will require supervised 14-day quarantines for Australian citizens returning from there.

Japan and Britain said they were extending travel curbs to more African countries, while South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Oman, Kuwait and Hungary announced new travel restrictions.

South Africa is worried that the curbs will hurt tourism and other sectors of its economy, the foreign ministry said on Saturday, adding the government is engaging with countries that have imposed travel bans to persuade them to reconsider.

Omicron has emerged as many countries in Europe are already battling a surge in COVID-19 infections, and some have re-introduced restrictions on social activity to try to stop the spread. Austria and Slovakia have entered lockdowns.

VACCINATIONS

The new variant has also thrown a spotlight on disparities in how far the world's population is vaccinated. Even as many developed countries are giving third-dose boosters, less than 7% of people in low-income countries have received their first COVID-19 shot, according to medical and human rights groups.

Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Vaccine Alliance that with the WHO co-leads the COVAX initiative to push for equitable distribution of vaccines, said this was essential to ward off the emergence of more coronavirus variants.

“While we still need to know more about Omicron, we do know that as long as large portions of the world’s population are unvaccinated, variants will continue to appear, and the pandemic will continue to be prolonged," he said in a statement to Reuters.

"We will only prevent variants from emerging if we are able to protect all of the world’s population, not just the wealthy parts."

UK, Germany and Italy detect Omicron variant cases, Israel closes borders
 

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Comments (22)
Chris Sundo
Chris Sundo Nov 28, 2021 9:28AM ET
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It's interesting that China has been backing South Africa financially, and now South Africa is the new virus release portal. China is testing and showing how incompetent non-Asian citizens are, in adapting to new and changing conditions, and in following basic, common-sense rules of self-protection from an effective aggressor such as a Covid virus. Such incompetence to adapt to changing conditions was also prominent in the pre-Biden POTUS. All in all such incompetence will play a crucial role now as China and communist/autocratic countries are taking control of the world, one country at a time. Who do you think will win in the end: a Covid variant or an unprotected (un-masked, unvaccinated, un-2-meter distanced, unwashed hands) citizen? Note: if learning new things doesn't come easy to you, then don't have strong opinions.
Chris Sundo
Chris Sundo Nov 28, 2021 9:28AM ET
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Correction to the second sentence: Insert the word 'Perhaps, ' before the first word of the 2nd sentence.
Chris Sundo
Chris Sundo Nov 28, 2021 9:09AM ET
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'Vaccine Escape' is a new phrase for me lol. Frankly, it's NOT PRUDENT by health officials to even mention this condition of 'vaccine escape' because we should know after 22 months of the rules having been written, by all to see, in 2020 January that the vaccine is just another support tool aside from 2-meter distancing, mask-wearing, and hand-washing and definitely NOT a substitute those 3 anti-Covid tools. -- Perhaps Omicron is necessary for the world population to understand the basic concept that there is not to be any substitution among the anti-Covid tools and that they must all be practiced together. By the same token is Friday's sell-off an over-reaction that will be reversed the moment the pull-back has run its course to the next pull-back target.
simone scelsa
simone scelsa Nov 28, 2021 7:05AM ET
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Energy prices are high, a group of nations release their SPRs without effect. The same week a new variant is discovered, energy prices go down. All too convenient. US had more deaths from covid in 2021, with a good portion of the population vaccinated, than in 2020. The virus will do its own thing, vaccines do little, lockdowns do even less.
Chris Sundo
Chris Sundo Nov 28, 2021 7:05AM ET
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You're grossly mistaken. Lockdowns are the answer and vaccines do quite a lot more than you think. You must be in with the Trump crowd. -- Americans have not yet reached herd immunity and each person who gets infected with Covid and shows symptoms will have to fight for their life in hospital, only to regret their uneducated beliefs, usually too late. -- Anti-vaxxers are slowly die' .ing out.
Atlantic Coast Money
Atlantic Coast Money Nov 28, 2021 4:01AM ET
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Funny how the most vaxed populations are dealing with the mutations. Hint: mutations are caused by the vax. An epic fail. So grateful I have natural immunity. I truly feel bad for the misinformed and those living in fear.
Empire Destroyer
Empire Destroyer Nov 28, 2021 4:01AM ET
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Dude mutations come from the countries with leats vaccinated... most vaxed populations just buying time to investigate the mutation... Where do people like you read your B/S and formulate such useless opinions
Ric Later
riclater211 Nov 28, 2021 4:01AM ET
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you are the people they love. take orders without question.
Isidro Fernandez
Isidro Fernandez Nov 28, 2021 4:01AM ET
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"misinformed", you meant the millions that had died?
Jo Pa
Jo Pa Nov 28, 2021 1:50AM ET
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Africa has near zero vaccination, and the lowest number of cases world wide. Israel has one of the highest vaccination rates, and also one of the highest cases.
Rasp Trade
Rasp Trade Nov 28, 2021 1:50AM ET
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In afrcia they dont get tested Lol
jj mm
jj mm Nov 28, 2021 1:50AM ET
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Rasp Trade and they are not dying like in Europe Israel or usa
Jo Pa
Jo Pa Nov 28, 2021 1:50AM ET
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In the US a person who tests positive five days in a row is counted as five cases.
Benson Njonjo Ndehi
Benson Njonjo Ndehi Nov 27, 2021 9:54PM ET
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Moral of the story: shut up whenever you discover a covid variant or other countries will punish you.
Bernard Tan
Bernard Tan Nov 27, 2021 9:54PM ET
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Yes, just like Wuhan and Delhi
Jamie An
Jamie An Nov 27, 2021 9:04PM ET
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Scientist know that the easier infected virus is the less dangerous. It's a science but nobody talk this, because why? Democrates wants fear in public for manage oil price, inflation, russia and Opec.
emad hijazi
emad hijazi Nov 27, 2021 9:04PM ET
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couldn't agree more
S S Shet
pingo_0070 Nov 27, 2021 9:04PM ET
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absolutely correct ...I am a doctor.. and I know this very well that a virus mutates to make it more able to survive and spread.. hence lethality reduces .. because a lethal virus will kill the host fast and won't be able to spread... example is ebola ... it's very lethal so didn't caused a pandemic ...common cold spreads fast ( every one gets common cold , once or twice a year ) .. should we create panic and do shutdown to control common cold ...COVID Is no more a virus , It has become a manipulator in hands of governments...
Tony Huynh
Tony Huynh Nov 27, 2021 8:51PM ET
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RIP oil
emad hijazi
emad hijazi Nov 27, 2021 8:51PM ET
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not for long
Miriam Morkhul
Miriam Morkhul Nov 27, 2021 8:51PM ET
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There is nothing stopping the rise of oil to 100 usd, banks predict even higher. Maybe 150 usd next year.
Kaveh Sun
Kaveh Sun Nov 27, 2021 7:31PM ET
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Proof who is in China pocket. They skipped Nu, Xi and went straight to Omicron.
MuraliKrishna Brahmandam
MuraliKrishna Brahmandam Nov 27, 2021 7:26PM ET
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Joe is planning his $2T Omicron stimulus package for quick passage in house and senate.
Whaling Trawler
Whaling Trawler Nov 27, 2021 6:37PM ET
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...well get a bowl of chicken noodle soup and a box of kleenex and get a life for God's sake
rizwan aslam
rizwan aslam Nov 27, 2021 5:54PM ET
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Monday market go down least 6%
ZS Beck
ZS Beck Nov 27, 2021 3:59PM ET
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According to the South African doctors , who treated patient with this new variant. They had less dangers symptons , then the exidting variants .So if its true . Thanks for nothing WHO….
Roger Miller
Roger Miller Nov 27, 2021 3:59PM ET
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It would not be surprising either.  If it's following evolutionary science the virus will evolve to become more contagious but less deadly, as it needs it's host to survive for it survive.
ZS Beck
ZS Beck Nov 27, 2021 3:59PM ET
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Symptoms are unusual but mild. You can search it on Google...
DJ Car
DJ Car Nov 27, 2021 3:22PM ET
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what would the left wing media do without some issue to obsess about?? Pfizer already out on this one. So lame..
Dave Jones
Dave Jones Nov 27, 2021 2:51PM ET
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Uuuuurrrrr!!!!!! We're FRIGHTENED!!!! Give us more vaccines!!!!
rizwan aslam
rizwan aslam Nov 27, 2021 2:12PM ET
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Monday
rizwan aslam
rizwan aslam Nov 27, 2021 2:12PM ET
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Hopefully market go down 2500+ dow 600+ nasdaq
William Smith
William Smith Nov 27, 2021 2:08PM ET
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So in short the new variant is already spread across all of sub Sahara Africa, has likely been around for months and undoubtably has already spread around the world. 99.9% of new cases of confirmed Covid have no lab test done to determine what variant one has. So in Africa its probably one in 1 on 25000 get variant analysis. So it's a safe bet the new variant has been around for a fair amount of time and has spread worldwide.
Raw Quantum
Raw Quantum Nov 27, 2021 1:51PM ET
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The markets are Pinocchio big gov/biz is Gepetto
Roger Miller
Roger Miller Nov 27, 2021 10:40AM ET
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Politicians and bureaucrats still using a shot gun approach with travel restrictions. It’s very doubtful the travel bans are worth the economic damage they are inflicting. Where is the science showing travel bans work?
Miriam Morkhul
Miriam Morkhul Nov 27, 2021 10:40AM ET
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You can buy science if you are a unelected central supernational body.
Kaveh Sun
Kaveh Sun Nov 27, 2021 10:24AM ET
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The media is trying to hype fear so the market, plus oil can go down much more for Biden and his rich buddies. The public sells on fear.
Ricky Singh
Ricky Singh Nov 27, 2021 9:15AM ET
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Merc pills coming in market and they wanna make good money si all this drama to get these Pharmas capture market share all over the world ! Corruption at higest level and i bet they will just spread fear to make everyone get vaccinated and they will throw this approval of oral pill next week and entire market will jump back ! Retail investors bled but institutions got in cheap
 
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