The first case of the variant was confirmed in Belgium on Friday. In turn, the Dutch RIVM reported on Saturday that this variant was ‘probably’ found in ‘number’ of 61 travelers returning from South Africa who tested positive for coronavirus. Erasmus University is still analyzing the results, and the results of all suspicious test samples will be announced on Sunday. The concerned passengers are in quarantine.
Meanwhile, more and more countries are imposing travel bans, especially against countries in South Africa, to slow the progress of the potentially highly contagious variant, although little is known about it scientifically.
Australia, Japan, Thailand and several other countries on Saturday imposed travel bans and other restrictions on travelers from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and other southern African countries, following several European countries (including Belgium), Brazil, Canada and the United States. Countries did so already on Friday. This is based on the consideration that pre-variants of Covid-19 could spread rapidly around the world due to lax border controls, but against the advice of the World Health Organization (WHO).
The farthest is Israel, which yesterday decided to completely close its borders to foreigners.
However, it appears that the new aura variant has already begun its global progress. On Saturday, two omicron cases were detected in Germany, two in the UK and one in Italy, after the variant appeared earlier in Belgium, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong, always among South African travelers. The infection of a traveler from Namibia is being investigated in the Czech Republic, and it appears that a variant has already been found in the Netherlands.
Stocks dumped en masse
The discovery of a new and potentially dangerous type of Covid virus thrilled investors around the world on Friday. Shares of airlines and travel companies, in particular, were widely sank on fears that a resurgence of the pandemic could crush the fragile global economic recovery. European stocks had their worst day in 17 months, and in the US the Dow closed 2.5 percent lower.
It is still not clear what we can expect from the new, technically variant virus. variable omikron (from who toalternative to anxiety‘) may be more contagious than the delta variant due to the large number of mutations, according to epidemiologists, but the question is whether this also makes people sicker. It is also unclear to what extent current vaccines are effective against the new alternative. More research is needed, also into its origin. The variant may have been discovered in South Africa, but may have originated elsewhere.
Meanwhile, South Africa is angered by the rising tide of travel bans. The country feels like a scapegoat. This latest round of travel bans amounts to penalizing South Africa for its advanced DNA testing technologies and ability to detect new variants more quickly. “Scientific excellence should be welcomed and not punished,” the government said.
In the UK, for example, there are calls to speed up booster vaccination programmes, in anticipation of the Omicron variant. However, critics point out that in developing countries, more than 90 percent of people don’t even get their first shot. “Failure to help vaccinate Sub-Saharan Africa exposes us all to a new, more deadly strain of Covid,” IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva wrote on Twitter. “Omicron’s news is an urgent catalyst to do more to vaccinate the entire world.”
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