New Omicron cases detected as coronavirus variant spreads

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Concerns grow as more countries confirm Omicron coronavirus infections and impose travel restrictions.

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New cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant have been detected around the world, with two cases in Australia, and more countries attempting to shut themselves down by imposing travel restrictions.

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First discovered in South Africa, Omicron has since been recorded in Belgium, Botswana, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy and the United Kingdom.

Austria was investigating a suspected case on Sunday and in France, Health Minister Olivier Veran said Omicron was probably already there.

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Omicron’s discovery on Friday was dubbed “a sort of concern” by the World Health Organization, prompting concerns that it could resist vaccines and prolong the nearly two-year COVID pandemic.

Omicron is potentially more contagious than previous variants, but experts do not yet know whether it will cause more or less severe COVID-19.

Countries have imposed travel bans or a wave of sanctions on southern Africa. In a far-reaching effort to keep the variant at bay, Israel announced late Saturday that it would ban the entry of all foreigners and reintroduce anti-terrorist phone-tracking technology to curb the spread of the variant.

Here are the latest updates:


UK to introduce new COVID rules from Tuesday

The UK government has defended the speed and scale of its response to the new Omicron strain of COVID-19 against criticism that it was falling behind the curve again.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said compulsory mask-wearing would return to shops and public transport in England on Tuesday, and told families to “plan for Christmas as usual” despite new rules to tackle the Omicron version.

Also, all passengers arriving in Britain from Tuesday are being instructed to undergo a PCR test for Kovid-19 and remain in self-isolation till the report comes negative.


Dozens of S Africa flights test positive for COVID in Netherlands

Dutch health officials say they have detected 61 COVID-19 cases among people on a flight from South Africa and say they believe some infections are of the new Omicron variant .

In a statement on Saturday, the Dutch Health Authority (GDD) said cases were found in 624 passengers who arrived at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport on two flights on Friday.

Read more here.

People walk inside Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, Netherlands [Eva Plevier/Reuters]

Swiss voters ready to support COVID-19 response plan

Swiss voters saw a referendum likely to support the government’s pandemic response plan, paving the way for the continuation of extraordinary measures to stem the rising tide of COVID-19 cases.

Early government data from Sunday’s elections showed a little more than 60 percent of the vote supporting legislation passed this year to provide financial aid to those affected by the COVID-19 crisis and require proof of a COVID-19 vaccination, recovery or one. Shown. Tests negative for entering bars, restaurants, and certain events.

Restrictions on public life to curb coronavirus infections have sparked protests in Switzerland, triggering a binding referendum under the country’s system of direct democracy, even as the government this week called for “critical have risen to the level of deemed cases.



Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Sudan suspend flights from African countries

Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Sudan have suspended flights along with several African countries due to Omicron.

Saudi state news agency SPA, citing an interior ministry source, said direct flights with Angola, Comoros, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Seychelles and Zambia had been suspended.

On Friday, the state banned flights from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe between Omicron fears.

Bahrain also banned travelers from Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia, according to state news agency BNA. Bahrain citizens and holders of valid visas were allowed to enter Bahrain.

Health officials in Sudan banned different types of flights from Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.


France likely to have Omicron version: Health minister

Omicron is probably already circulating in France, its health minister said, adding that the government was tightening restrictions to contain it.

“Once the variant is circulating in England, in Italy, in Belgium, it is likely to be already in vogue here. We will identify them and (…) we will slow its spread as much as possible,” Olivier Veran told reporters at a vaccination center in Paris.

France is in the middle of a fifth wave of the virus. It recorded more than 37,000 positive cases on Saturday and a sharp rise in the number of patients in intensive care.

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