Israel will on Sunday become the first country to ban the entry of all foreigners, as the world races to understand and contain the worrying new version of Covid-19, which emerged in southern Africa.
Meanwhile, Dutch health officials said they had detected 61 Covid-19 cases in people who took off on two flights from South Africa on Friday and believe at least some of the infections are of the new Omicron variant.
within days of World Health Organization Raising alarm about the new variant, omicron cases have been detected across Europe, including the UK, Italy, Germany and Belgium, as well as Australia, Israel and Hong Kong.
While no cases of the new variant have been detected in the United States, the country’s leading infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told Granthshala News’ Lester Holt that the mutations displayed by Omicron indicate that it may be highly contagious. And may be able to avoid it. The body’s immune response, including the protection provided by antibodies induced by vaccines.
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Fauci said, “You don’t want to scare the American public, but when something happens that needs to be taken seriously, you take it seriously and you do whatever you can against it.” ,” Fauci said.
“If there was ever a reason to vaccinate for people who have never been vaccinated, and those who have been vaccinated, when your time comes, go get a booster shot,” he said.
Omicron was first reported in South Africa on Wednesday. The WHO has since dubbed it “a form of anxiety”, raising international concern and placing international restrictions on arrivals from several southern African countries.
The US has also restricted travel to South Africa and seven neighboring countries, effective Monday.
But experts, including Fauci, have told Granthshala News that the variant may already be in the US.
“It’s already here,” said Granthshala News medical contributor Dr. Kavita Patel. “We know from past forms that by the time we raise this in Africa and the European Union, it is already possible.”
In Israel, which has one confirmed case of the variant and seven suspected cases, authorities on Saturday decided to ban foreign travelers from all countries and mandatory quarantine for all Israelis arriving from abroad. The restrictions are expected to last 14 days, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Dutch officials said 61 Covid-19 cases were discovered among 624 passengers who arrived at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport on two flights from South Africa on Friday before the Dutch government banned air traffic from southern Africa.
“The Omicron variant has been found in several tested individuals,” the Netherlands Institute for Health (RIVM) said in a statement to Reuters. A RIVM spokesperson said it was “almost certain” that the cases were of the newer version, but further testing was needed to be absolutely sure.
The measures to contain the new version come as European countries, including the Netherlands, reimpose restrictions and curfews amid a surge in coronavirus cases.
As the world went on high alert over the weekend, Foreign Minister Antony Blinken praised South African scientists for the “quick detection” of the new version. In a statement on Saturday, he also commended the South African government for “transparency in sharing this information”, which he said should serve as a model for the world.
But South African officials expressed dismay at the speed and extent of the travel restrictions imposed on their country, saying they “are tantamount to punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and ability to detect new variants early.” according to a Statement From the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of South Africa.
“Excellent science should be appreciated and not punished,” it said.
The WHO has also cautioned against imposing travel restrictions hastily, saying countries should take a “risk-based and scientific approach”.
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