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Omicron variant: new restrictions in cascade after WHO warning | Coronavirus

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Berlin must decide on new measures including possible closures of bars and other public places, before a vaccination obligation. Already planned in Austria, this measure is being studied in various countries, such as South Africa, even if resistance is strong.

A discussion must be conducted on the subject in the Member States of the European Union (EU), said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at a press conference.

Because for the time being, underlined in Geneva the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the insufficient vaccination coverage against COVID-19 and that of the level of screening constitute a mixture toxic.

It is a perfect recipe for variants to reproduce and amplify, he warned, stressing that the end of the pandemic is a matter of choice.

In South Africa, where the identification of the Omicron variant was announced last week, and where less than a quarter of the population is vaccinated, authorities have described to Parliament a spread exponential virus. The new variant, clearly very contagious, is already dominant.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday denounced the border closures, calling them a form ofapartheid against an insufficiently vaccinated Africa.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) also considered that the priority remained to ensure that vaccines are produced and distributed as quickly as possible across the world.

The developed countries of the G20 have spent 10,000 billion US dollars to protect their economy during the crisis, while vaccinating the planet would only cost 50 billion, lamented Laurence Boone, the chief economist of the OECD.

Europeans on the lookout

The Omicron variant has been spotted on all continents, but Europe, already faced before its appearance with a strong rebound in the epidemic, seems the most affected.

After many other countries, Ireland, Iceland, India have in turn announced their first case. France has, on Thursday, confirmed a first case on its metropolitan soil, after a first detected on the island of Reunion.

The States of the Old Continent have decided to tighten again the health restrictions: border controls, ban on travel to southern Africa, compulsory mask in transport and shops in the United Kingdom, recommendation to vaccinate vulnerable children in France, etc.

In Belgium, a third meeting of authorities (federal and federated entities) in less than three weeks is not excluded to decide on new restrictions on activities indoors and in schools.

Flanders, the country’s leading region, called for a new turn of the screw, supported Thursday by Federal Minister of Health Frank Vandenbroucke who described a dramatic situation in hospitals.

Denmark, also facing a strong epidemic rebound on Wednesday recorded the record number of more than 4,500 new cases, reintroduced a mandatory test for travelers from Doha and Dubai.

The United States announced on Thursday strengthened tests for travelers entering its territory as early as next week after announcing their first case of the Omicron variant the day before.

In Asia, Japan, now closed to foreigners, has identified two cases of the new variant and on Wednesday asked airlines to suspend new bookings to its territory for a month.

Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, also recorded its first three cases, people returning from South Africa, just like the first three cases spotted in Brazil.

A first case was reported in Saudi Arabia in a Saudi returnee from North Africa – as well as in the United Arab Emirates.

Waiting for a new vaccine

Various laboratories, including Moderna, AstraZeneca, Pfizer / BioNTech and Novavax, have expressed confidence in their ability to create a new vaccine against Omicron. Russia has also announced that it is working on a version of its Sputnik V specifically targeting this variant.

Never has a variant of COVID-19 caused so much concern since the emergence of Delta, which is currently dominant and already highly contagious.

WHO judges high the likelihood of Omicron spreading globally, even if many unknowns remain: contagiousness, effectiveness of existing vaccines, severity of symptoms.

Reassuringly, to date, no deaths associated with Omicron have been reported.

COVID-19 has killed at least 5,214,847 worldwide since its appearance in late 2019 in China, according to an AFP count on Wednesday.

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