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Brazil and Japan report first cases of the omicron COVID-19 variant


Brazil and Japan joined the quickly widening circle of nations to report circumstances of the omicron variant Tuesday, whereas new findings point out the mutant coronavirus was already in Europe near per week earlier than South Africa sounded the alarm.

The Netherlands’ RIVM well being institute disclosed that affected person samples relationship from Nov. 19 and 23 had been discovered to comprise the variant. It was on Nov. 24 that South African authorities reported the existence of the extremely mutated virus to the World Health Organization.

That signifies omicron had a much bigger head begin within the Netherlands than beforehand believed.

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Together with the circumstances in Japan and Brazil, the discovering illustrates the issue in containing the virus in an age of jet journey and financial globalization. And it left the world as soon as once more whipsawed between hopes of returning to regular and fears that the worst is but to come back.

The pandemic has proven repeatedly that the virus “travels quickly because of our globalized, interconnected world,” said Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious disease specialist at the Yale School of Public Health. Until the vaccination drive reaches every country, “we’re going to be on this state of affairs repeatedly.”

Brazil, which has recorded a staggering complete of greater than 600,000 COVID-19 deaths, reported discovering the variant in two vacationers coming back from South Africa — the primary identified omicron circumstances in Latin America. The vacationers had been examined on Nov. 25, authorities mentioned.

Japan introduced its first case, too, on the identical day the nation put a ban on all international guests into impact. The affected person was recognized as a Namibian diplomat who had just lately arrived from his homeland.

France likewise recorded its first case, within the far-flung island territory of Reunion within the Indian Ocean. Authorities mentioned the affected person was a person who had returned to Reunion from South Africa and Mozambique on Nov. 20.

Much stays unknown in regards to the new variant, together with whether or not it’s extra contagious, as some well being authorities suspect, whether or not it makes folks extra severely unwell, and whether or not it will probably thwart the vaccine.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ high infectious illness knowledgeable, mentioned far more will likely be identified within the subsequent a number of weeks, and “we’ll have a much better picture of what the challenge is ahead of us.”

In the meantime, a WHO official warned that given the growing number of omicron cases in South Africa and neighboring Botswana, parts of southern Africa could soon see infections skyrocket.

“There is a possibility that really we’re going to be seeing a serious doubling or tripling of the cases as we move along or as the week unfolds,” said Dr. Nicksy Gumede-Moeletsi, a WHO regional virologist.

Cases began to increase rapidly in mid-November in South Africa, which is now seeing nearly 3,000 confirmed new infections per day.

Before news of the Brazil cases broke, Fauci said 226 omicron cases had been confirmed in 20 countries, adding: “I think you’re going to expect to see those numbers change rapidly.”

Those countries include Britain, 11 European Union nations, Australia, Canada, Britain and Israel. American disease trackers said omicron could already be in the U.S., too, and probably will be detected soon.

“I am expecting it any day now,” mentioned Scott Becker of the Association of Public Health Laboratories. “We expect it is here.”

While the variant was first identified by South African researchers, it is unclear where and when it originated, information that could help shed light on how fast it spreads.

The announcement from the Dutch on Tuesday could shape that timeline.

Previously, the Netherlands said it found the variant among passengers who came from South Africa on Friday, the same day the Dutch and other EU members began imposing flight bans and other restrictions on southern Africa. But the newly identified cases predate that.

NOS, the Netherlands’ public broadcaster, said that one of the two omicron samples came from a person who had been in southern Africa.

Belgium reported a case involving a traveler who returned to the country from Egypt on Nov. 11 but did not become sick with mild symptoms until Nov. 22.

Many health officials tried to calm fears, insisting that vaccines remain the best defense and that the world must redouble its efforts to get the shots to every part of the globe.

Emer Cooke, chief of the European Medicines Agency, said that the 27-nation EU is well prepared for the variant and that the vaccine could be adapted for use against omicron within three or four months if necessary.

England reacted to the emerging threat by making face coverings mandatory again on public transportation and in stores, banks and hair salons. And one month ahead of Christmas, the head of Britain’s Health Security Agency urged people not to socialize if they don’t need to.

After COVID-19 led to a one-year postponement of the Summer Games, Olympic organizers began to worry about the February Winter Games in Beijing. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said omicron would “certainly bring some challenges in terms of prevention and control.”

World markets seesawed on every piece of medical news, whether worrisome or reassuring. Stocks fell on Wall Street over virus fears as well as concerns about the Federal Reserve’s continued efforts to shore up the markets.

Some analysts think a serious economic downturn will probably be averted because many people have been vaccinated. But they also think a return to pre-pandemic levels of economic activity, especially in tourism, has been dramatically delayed.

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Read extra:

WHO warns against blanket travel bans over Omicron coronavirus variant

How South African scientists spotted the Omicron COVID-19 variant

Omicron poses ‘very high’ global health risk, countries must prepare: WHO



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