Omicron variant was spreading beyond Africa before it was identified, new evidence suggests

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World health officials scrambled on Wednesday to respond to a growing Omicron outbreak amid new evidence that the mutant Covid-19 variant may have spread beyond southern Africa until it was first detected.

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Dutch health officials said on Tuesday that they had found omicrons in samples taken on November 19 and 23, suggesting the variant’s onset in Europe was higher than previously thought.

“It is not yet clear whether these people have visited southern Africa,” said the Dutch National Institute for Public Health. said in a statement,


The version was first reported World Health Organization by South African officials on 24 November, but it is unclear where or when it may have originated.

Earlier this week, the Netherlands reported at least 14 omicron cases in passengers who boarded two flights from South Africa on November 26.

Passengers from South Africa are tested on arrival in a specially designed area at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport on Tuesday.Remco de Waal / AFP – Getty Images
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Meanwhile, Nigeria has detected its first case of the Omicron variant in a sample collected in October, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday, citing the country’s National Institute of Public Health.

Europe has been experiencing the strongest surge of COVID-19 in recent weeks, but cases are now rising in other parts of the world as well. In South Korea, the daily jump in coronavirus infections exceeded 5,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic as health officials investigate suspected Omicron cases.

The Associated Press reported that the first Omicron case in Latin America has also been reported in Brazil.

No omicron cases have been detected in the United States so far, but health experts have said it is only a matter of time – as the Biden administration is considering stricter requirements for international travel.

“It’s going to come,” former CDC acting director Dr. Richard Besser told Granthshala News Tuesday night. “Being prepared for it and being able to react based on how severe it is — is critically important.”

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Omicron’s discovery has sparked international concern that it could prolong the pandemic, which has already claimed more than 5 million lives worldwide. Much is unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more transmissible, leads to more severe disease or can evade the immune protection provided by vaccines.

The lack of certainty has prompted many countries to impose widespread travel restrictions.

Japan was the latest to ban all foreign visitors from Tuesday as it confirmed its first Omicron case. Further tightening restrictions on Wednesday, the country’s flag airlines halted new reservations for international flights to Japan until the end of December, Reuters reported.

Former Acting CDC Director Discusses Omicron and Kovid Vaccines

December 1, 202101:35

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus cautioned against hasty travel restrictions, saying southern African countries, the first to report the new version, are being “punished” for doing the right thing.

“I understand very well the concern of all countries to protect their citizens from a version we do not yet fully understand,” Tedros said. “But I am equally concerned that many member states are introducing blunt, blanket measures that are not evidence-based or effective on their own, and which will only worsen inequalities.”

Tedros also warned that the delta variant, which accounts for nearly all cases globally, remains highly permeable and dangerous.

Also on Wednesday, the WHO agreed to begin negotiations on an international agreement to prevent and control future pandemics, calling it a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to strengthen global health response systems. .

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