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Israel to Close Borders in Response to Omicron Variant | Coronavirus

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In a statement, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the ban would extend for 14 days, subject to government approval.

It will come into force at midnight, the night from Sunday to Monday.

Israel has recorded one confirmed case and seven suspected cases of contamination by this new variant, potentially more contagious and deemed worrying by the World Health Organization.

Authorities hope that, within this 14-day window, more information will be available on the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines for this variant.

Worrisome situation in Europe

The Omicron variant has also reached the Old Continent. Authorities in the UK have confirmed cases in travelers. Germany also reports two cases of the variant in Bavaria and Italy, for its part, records a case of Omicron on its territory.

In the UK, two cases of the variant were reported on Saturday by Health Minister Sajid Javid. The two people and their immediate entourage are in isolation and undergo new screening tests.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday announced he would tighten entry measures to his country in order to slow the spread of the Omicron variant.

Due to the new variant, we need to go further and put in place a new testing regime, said the leader at a press conference. We will ask anyone entering the UK to take a PCR test two days after his arrival and isolate herself until she has the result.

From Sunday, the UK will also ban flights from Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola.

Germany confirmed on Saturday that it had detected its first two cases of contamination with the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in travelers who arrived from South Africa at Munich airport (south), local authorities announced.

Two suspected cases of the Omicron variant, classified as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization, have been confirmed in Bavaria, the Ministry of Health of this southern German state announced in a statement.

Tests carried out on Friday evening on a passenger from South Africa at the airport in Frankfurt, the main airport in the most populous country in the European Union, had already revealed several mutations typical of Omicron, said Regional Minister of Social Affairs Kai Klose.

A long corridor at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany, is practically deserted.  A few travelers can be seen in the distance, including a masked lady walking to the left.

The first potential case of the Omicron variant in Germany has been detected in a traveler who landed in Frankfurt.

Photo: Associated Press / Michael Probst

A first case of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has been detected in Italy, theHigher Institute of Health (ISS), which depends on the Italian government.

The positive sample was taken from a patient from Mozambique, the ISS said in a statement. The patient and his family members are in good health.

The Netherlands on the lookout

In the Netherlands, authorities isolated 61 people who tested positive for COVID-19 when they arrived on two flights from South Africa on Friday. Authorities are investigating further to see if any travelers carry the Omicron variant.

The planes arrived in the Netherlands from Johannesburg and Cape Town, shortly after the Dutch government banned flights from southern African countries.

The 539 travelers who tested negative were allowed to return home or continue their journey to other countries. Under government regulations, those living in the Netherlands who are allowed to return home must self-isolate for at least five days.

For his part, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said on Saturday that a local laboratory was researching a sample taken from a woman who had traveled to Namibia and tested positive for COVID-19 upon her return. .

It flew back to the Czech Republic via South Africa and DubaiMr. Babis tweeted. The woman was vaccinated. She has moderate symptoms, and we’ll get the sequencing results tomorrow.

Belgium had already announced the first known case in Europe of the new Omicron variant. It was an unvaccinated person who arrived on November 11 from Egypt via Turkey.

There is a risk of high to very high that the Omicron variant is spreading in Europe, estimates for its part the health agency of theEU.

An airplane takes off;  others are on the ground.

Many countries have banned flights from different African states (archive).

Photo: Reuters / ALY SONG

Restrictions to Southern African countries

A multitude of countries, including Canada, Australia, Brazil, Iran, Japan, Thailand and the United States, have joined the European Union and the United Kingdom to impose restrictions on countries from southern Africa in response to warnings about the transmissibility of the new variant, despite recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO), which has advised against travel restriction measures.

Despite the stopping of flights, there is growing evidence that the variant is already spreading. Besides Europe, cases have been reported in travelers to Israel and Hong Kong.

THE’WHO named the new variant Omicron, calling it a variant of “concern” because of its high number of mutations and some early evidence that shows that it has a higher degree of infection than the other variants.

This means that people who have contracted COVID-19 and have recovered could be prone to catching it again. It could be weeks before we know if the current vaccines are less effective against him.

Rapid spread

The rapid spread of the variant among young people in South Africa alarmed healthcare professionals, although there was no immediate indication that the variant was causing more serious illness. In just two weeks, Omicron transformed a period of low virus transmission in the country into a period of rapid growth.

A number of pharmaceutical companies, including AstraZeneca, Moderna, Novavax and Pfizer, have said they have plans in place to adapt their vaccines in light of the emergence of Omicron.

Syringes and vials containing Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine.

Vaccine manufacturers are evaluating how to adapt their products to deal with the new variant (archived).

Photo: AFP / JUSTIN TALLIS

Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group that developed the AstraZeneca vaccine, expressed cautious optimism that existing vaccines might be effective in preventing serious illnesses caused by the Omicron variant.

He said most of the mutations appear to be in regions similar to other variants.

This means that despite mutations that exist in other variants, vaccines have continued to prevent serious disease as we move through Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta., he told BBC radio.

At least from a speculative standpoint, we feel some optimism that the vaccine should still protect against some serious disease form of the new variant, but we really have to wait several weeks for that to be confirmed.

He added that he is extremely unlikely that we will witness the restart of a pandemic in a vaccinated population as we saw last year.

Some experts have said the emergence of the variant illustrates how the build-up of vaccines in wealthy countries threatens to prolong the pandemic.

Less than 6% of people in Africa have been fully immune to COVID-19, and millions of healthcare workers and vulnerable people have yet to receive even a dose. These conditions can accelerate the spread of the virus, giving it more possibilities to evolve into a dangerous variant.

Since the end of 2019, the pandemic has killed at least 5.18 million people worldwide, according to a count from theAFP.

With information from Agence France-Presse, Reuters and the Associated Press

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