The omicron variant was already in the Netherlands when South Africa warned the World Health Organization last week, Dutch health authorities said Tuesday, adding to fear and confusion about the new version of the coronavirus in a tired world, hoping it left behind the worst. the pandemic is over.
The Netherlands Institute of Public Health RIVM found an omicron in samples dated November 19 and 23. WHO said South Africa first reported this option to the UN health agency on November 24.
It remains unclear where and when this option first appeared, but that hasn’t stopped cautious countries from hasty imposing travel restrictions, especially for visitors arriving from southern Africa. These moves were criticized by South Africa, and WHO opposed them, noting their limited impact.
Much is not yet known about this option, although WHO has warned that the global risk associated with this option is “very high” and early evidence suggests it may be more infectious.
The Netherlands’ announcement on Tuesday further confuses the timeline for the actual appearance of the new variant. The Dutch have previously said they found this option among passengers arriving from South Africa on Friday, but these new cases have occurred even before that.
Meanwhile, authorities in the eastern German city of Leipzig said on Tuesday that they had confirmed infection with a variant of the omicron in a 39-year-old man who had not been abroad or had any contact with anyone, according to the dpa news agency. Leipzig is located in eastern Saxony, which currently has the highest rate of coronavirus infection in Germany.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Japan and France announced their first use cases of the new variant.
French authorities have confirmed his presence on the French island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean. Patrick Mavingui, a microbiologist at the island’s infectious disease research clinic, said the person who tested positive for the new variant is a 53-year-old man who traveled to Mozambique and stayed in South Africa before returning to Reunion.
The man has been quarantined. According to public television Reunion 1ere, he has “muscle aches and fatigue,” Mavingui said.
A day after banning all foreign visitors as an extreme precaution against this option, Japan also confirmed its first case in a visitor from Namibia. A government spokesman said the patient, a 30-year-old male, tested positive upon arrival at Narita Airport on Sunday, was isolated and is being treated in a hospital.
Travel bans also continued to fall on Tuesday.
Cambodia has banned travelers from 10 African countries from entering, citing a threat from this option. The move comes just two weeks after Cambodia reopened its borders to fully vaccinated travelers.
Calling against border closures, WHO stressed that while scientists are looking for evidence to better understand this option, countries should speed up vaccinations as soon as possible.
WHO said there was “significant uncertainty” about the omicron option. But it says preliminary evidence raises the likelihood that the variant has mutations that could help it both avoid an immune response and increase its ability to spread from one person to another.
Despite global concern, doctors in South Africa report that patients are still showing mostly mild symptoms. But they warn that it’s early, and most new cases are in people in their 20s and 30s, who usually don’t get COVID-19 as badly as older patients.