Covid-19: Omicron variant detected in several countries, “a race against time” is underway, according to the European Commission

While the new variant of SARS-CoV-2, Omicron, is spreading rapidly around the world, generating fears of new waves of pollution, the countries multiplied, on Sunday, November 28, the restriction measures.

The Covid-19 pandemic has killed at least five million people since the end of 2019, according to a report by Agence France-Presse (AFP), from official sources. The United States continues to be the country most affected by the epidemic, with more than 775,000 deaths, ahead of Brazil (more than 610,000) and India (almost 470,000).

However, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, taking into account the excess mortality directly and indirectly linked to Covid-19, that the number of victims of the pandemic in the world could be two or three times higher.

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  • Omicron variant detected in several countries

The Omicron variant, detected by South African scientists on Wednesday and classified as “worrisome” by the WHO on Friday, has been identified in several European countries.

On Friday, Belgium was the first country to announce the presence of a case of this variant in an unvaccinated person, who arrived on November 11 from Egypt. Other cases were subsequently identified in the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic.

In the Netherlands, thirteen cases of Omicron variant contamination have been detected among travelers returning by plane from South Africa: “But the investigation is not complete yet. The new variant could be found in other samples, “the National Institute of Public Health (RIVM) said in a statement on Sunday. Sixty-one people who arrived in Amsterdam on Friday on two flights from South Africa were diagnosed positive for SARS-CoV-2.

In France, at the moment no case of contamination linked to this new variant has been formally detected, but it is “most likely a matter of hours,” said Health Minister Olivier Véran this Sunday after a visit to a health center. Parisian vaccination. “We have several possible cases. A dozen. At this stage, we are in possible cases, ”government spokesman Gabriel Attal said later in the day on CNews. “These diagnoses will be sequencing and we will know in the next few hours if there are positive cases of the variant,” he added.

  • A “race against time” against the Omicron variant, according to the European Commission

A “race against time” is underway to analyze the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus and understand whether vaccines need to be adapted or not, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Sunday.

Ms Von der Leyen also asked populations to take precautions so that scientists have time to analyze this variant: “It takes two to three weeks for scientists and manufacturers to get a complete picture of the characteristics of the mutations in this variant”. “You have to buy time,” he insisted, asking the populations to be vaccinated, use the mask and respect the measures of physical distance.

He said that a contract signed this summer by the European Commission with the Pfizer-BioNTech laboratory for 1.8 billion doses of vaccine included a clause that provided for the case of a variant that would escape the existing vaccine. By this clause, the laboratory undertakes to be able to adapt its vaccine within a period of one hundred days, he said.

  • New restrictions in Israel, UK and Morocco

Hoping to curb the spread of the new variant, a case of which has been confirmed in the country, Israel will ban foreign nationals from entering its territory as of Sunday night. “The entry of foreigners into Israel is prohibited, except in cases approved by a special committee,” announced the office of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

Vaccinated Israeli citizens who want to enter the national territory from abroad must present a PCR test and quarantine themselves for three days, a measure extended to seven days for those not vaccinated. These decisions, which were taken at the end of a meeting of the cabinet in charge of the fight against Covid-19, stopped the reopening of the borders, on November 1, to vaccinated foreign tourists.

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On Sunday, Morocco decided to suspend aircraft arrivals from abroad, “in order to preserve the progress made (…) in the fight against the pandemic and protect the health of citizens,” it said in a press release. , the Interministerial. Pandemic Monitoring Committee. The measure will take effect on Monday and will last for two weeks.

The new measures will also go into effect in the UK on Tuesday, UK Health Minister Sajid Javid said on Sky News. Therefore, the use of a mask will again be mandatory in transport and in stores.

At a press conference on Saturday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson also announced that he would toughen entry measures into his country to curb the spread of this variant, making it mandatory for “anyone entering the UK to pass a PCR test.” days after her. arrival “and isolate yourself until you have the result.” So far, an antigen test has only been requested two days after the arrival of the international travelers, and no isolation until the results.

  • WHO urges not to close borders, South Africa calls for ‘immediate’ lifting of travel restrictions

The World Health Organization (WHO) called on Sunday night, in a statement, for “the borders to remain open”, as travel restrictions to southern African countries increase due to the risk of spreading the disease. Omicron variant disease. WHO urges countries to “take a scientific approach”, based on “risk assessment”. “It is critical that countries that are transparent with their data are supported, as this is the only way to ensure that we receive important data in a timely manner,” says WHO.

At the same time, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa urged countries that have imposed travel restrictions on their compatriots to “lift them immediately and urgently.” These border closures, devoid of “scientific justification”, are a form of “discrimination” against South Africa and neighboring countries affected by the same measures, he added during a televised speech.

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The world with AFP

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