COVID variants spread to more countries as a global alert


London — On Saturday, just days after being identified in South Africa, a new, potentially more contagious, Omicron variant of the coronavirus emerged in more European countries, with governments around the world struggling to stop its spread. Did.

The UK tightened rules on mask wearing and international arrival testing after discovering two cases on Saturday. New cases were confirmed in Germany and Italy on Saturday, and it is reported that this variant was also found in travelers in Belgium, Israel and Hong Kong.

In the United States, the government’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said it wouldn’t be surprising if a variant of Omicron was already in the United States.

“We haven’t detected it yet, but when you have a virus that shows this degree of infectivity … it will almost always end up in essentially everything,” Fauci said. I said on NBC TV.

Because of that fear New variant Concerns are rising around the world as they may be more resistant to the protection provided by the vaccine Pandemic And the associated blockade restrictions last much longer than expected.

Approximately two years have passed since the pandemic that claimed the lives of more than 5 million people around the world began, and countries are becoming more vigilant. Many have already imposed travel bans on flights from southern Africa as they are trying to gain time to assess whether the Omicron variant is more contagious than the current predominant Delta variant. doing.

In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “targeted precautions” need to be taken after the two have tested positive for the new variant in the UK.

“For now, this is a responsible course of action to delay the sowing and dissemination of this new variety and maximize our defenses,” he said at a press conference.

In the measures announced, Johnson said that those arriving in the UK must undergo a PCR test for COVID-19 two days after arrival and be self-quarantined until a negative test is obtained. He also said that if a positive test for the Omicron variant, close contacts should be self-quarantined for 10 days, regardless of vaccination status. Currently, close contacts are exempt from quarantine regulations if fully vaccinated.

He also said masks need to be worn in stores and public transport, and an independent group of scientists advising the British government on the deployment of coronavirus vaccines is being called upon to accelerate vaccination programs. This includes expanding the booster program to younger age groups, shortening the period between the second dose and the booster, and allowing older children to receive the second dose. There is a possibility.

“From today, we will support the booster campaign,” he said.

The UK Department of Health said the two cases found in the UK were related and related to travel from southern Africa. One of the two new cases occurred in the southeastern town of Brentwood, and the other in the central city of Nottingham. The two confirmed cases are self-isolation with the household during contact tracing and targeted testing.

Starting Sunday, the UK Government has added four countries to the national travel red list: Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia. Six locations were added on Friday: Botswana, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. This means that anyone authorized to arrive from these destinations must be quarantined.

Many countries have been new variants to different countries in southern Africa over the past two days, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, the European Union, Iran, Japan, New Zealand, Thailand and the United States. This goes against the World Health Organization’s advice, which warned against overreaction before the variants were thoroughly studied.

Despite the flight ban, there is growing concern that variants are already widely seeded around the world.

Italy and Germany were the latest to report confirmed cases of the Omicron variant.

An Italian who traveled to Mozambique for work landed in Rome on November 11 and returned to his home near Naples. According to the Italian news agency Lapresse, a family of five, including him and two school-aged children, has been positive since then. All are isolated in good condition with mild symptoms on the outskirts of Naples in Caserta.

The variant was confirmed by the Sacco Hospital in Milan, and the Italian National Institute of Health said the man had been vaccinated twice. The Italian Ministry of Health is urging all regions to increase virus tracking and sequencing to detect cases of the first new variant identified in South Africa.

In Germany, the Max von Pettenkofer Institute, a microbiology center based in Munich, said the Omicron variant was identified in two travelers arriving by plane from South Africa on November 24. Oliver Kepler, the head of the institute, has not yet completed the sequence, but “it is definitely proven to be this variant,” the German press dpa reported.

A variant of Omicron was quarantined after arriving in Amsterdam on Friday on two flights from South Africa, the Dutch Public Health Institute said, “probably found in people who had many tests.” The laboratory said in a statement that further sequence analysis is underway to confirm that it is a new variant. Results were expected on Sunday. A total of 61 people were tested.

Israel has detected new stocks of travelers returning from Malawi and said it is tracking 800 travelers who have recently returned from countries in southern Africa. And Australia said earlier on Sunday that the scientists are working to determine if two people who test positive for COVID-19 after arriving from southern Africa are infected with the Omicron variant. rice field.

The rapid spread of the subspecies South Africa It surprised medical professionals, even though there were no immediate signs that the mutant would cause a more serious illness.

Many pharmaceutical companies, including AstraZeneca, Moderna, Novavax and Pfizer, said they have plans to adapt the vaccine in the light of the advent of Omicron. Pfizer and its partner BioNTech said they expect to be able to fine-tune the vaccine in about 100 days.

Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, who developed the AstraZeneca vaccine, was cautiously optimistic that existing vaccines could be effective in preventing serious disease from Omicron variants, and most He said the mutations seemed to be in similar areas. In other variants.

“At least from a speculative point of view, there is optimism that the vaccine is also effective against new variants of serious illness, but in reality you have to wait a few weeks for it to be confirmed. There is, “he told BBC Radio.

Some experts said the emergence of this variant indicates that vaccine storage by developed countries could prolong the pandemic.

In Africa, less than 6% of people are fully immunized against COVID-19, and millions of healthcare workers and vulnerable people have not yet received a single dose.

In a statement, the State Department emphasized the importance of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken talking with South Africa’s Naledi Pandor on Saturday to work together to help African countries immunize their citizens. Emphasized. Blinken said South African scientists quickly identified variants of Omicron and praised the transparency of the government’s sharing of this information “should serve as a model for the world.”


Associated Press