Nigeria reports two cases of the new coronavirus variant among arrivals from South Africa as countries tighten travel restrictions.
Nigeria confirmed its first cases of the new Omicron COVID variant as countries tightened restrictions on international travel in an effort to slow its spread.
The Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) said two cases of the new variant were detected in two travelers from South Africa last week.
The announcement came after Ugur Sahin, CEO of COVID vaccine-maker BioNtech, said that while people vaccinated more than the Omicron version can become infected, they will likely be protected from serious illness.
Meanwhile, a panel of US health advisors backed the closely watched COVID-19 pill from Merck, which could lead to authorization later this week.
Scientists are scrambling to learn more about the effects of the Omicron variant, first discovered in South Africa last week.
It is unclear where or when the version first appeared. But despite the World Health Organization’s call for “rational” measures in response to the new tension, nations have rushed to impose travel restrictions, particularly on visitors from southern Africa.
Here are the latest updates:
The German state has reported four fully vaccinated people have been infected with Omicron.
The public health office in the state of Baden-Württemberg said four people in southern Germany have tested positive for the Omicron variant, even though they have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The state’s public health office said three of those infected returned from a business trip to South Africa on November 26 and 27, respectively, and the fourth person is a family member of one of the returnees.
“All the four people have been fully vaccinated. A mutation analysis conducted by the state health office has confirmed that all of them have been infected with the new type of concern,” the office said in a statement, adding that the four were under quarantine.
All four showed moderate symptoms.
Japan finds second case of Omicron variant: media
Broadcaster FNN reported that Japan has found a second person who has tested positive with the Omicron variant.
The first case of the variant came to light on Tuesday.
The country expanded its travel ban to cover all foreign inbound travelers – including temporary or permanent residents – from South Africa and nine surrounding countries starting Thursday.
Nigeria confirms Omicron cases
Nigeria confirmed that two cases of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant were detected in travelers arriving in the country last week from South Africa.
The Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) also said that retrospective sequencing of previously confirmed cases among travelers from Nigeria had identified the variant among samples collected in October. It did not provide further details.
“Given the highly potential growth of the Omron variant, it is imperative to take measures to prevent community transmission,” the NCDC said in a statement.
Malaysia to ban travelers from countries with Omicron cases
Malaysia said it would temporarily ban the entry of travelers from countries that have reported cases of the Omicron variant or are considered to be at high risk, its health ministry said.
Health Minister Khairi Jamaluddin said it would also delay plans with those countries to set up so-called vaccination travel lanes.
UK reports new cases
The United Kingdom reported eight new cases to the Omicron variant, bringing the total number to 13.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said a new COVID-19 lockdown was unlikely, despite concerns about the new version.
US panel endorses first of its kind COVID-19 pill
A panel of US health advisors backed a closely watched COVID-19 pill from Merck, setting the stage for possible authorization of the first drug that Americans could take at home to treat the coronavirus.
A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel voted by a 13-10 vote that the benefits of the antiviral drug mollupiravir, including potential birth defects, are greater than its risks when used during pregnancy.
“I see this as an incredibly difficult decision, one that has many more questions than answers,” said Harvard Medical School panel chair Dr. Lindsay Baden, who voted in favor of the drug. He added that the FDA has to carefully tailor the drug’s use to the patients who stand to benefit the most.
Molnupiravir has already been authorized for use in the United Kingdom.