New virus variant: The world in uncertainty because of Omikron

As of: 29.11.2021 11:15 a.m.

The new Corona variant puts the world on alert: The WHO classified the global risk from Omikron as “very high”. Israel and Japan imposed entry bans on foreigners. At the same time, South Africa warned against panic.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the new Omikron coronavirus variant poses an overall “very high” risk worldwide. The WHO warned in a letter to its 194 member states that there is a high likelihood of further global spread.

The number of Covid 19 cases can be expected to rise. Serious consequences loomed in some areas. Even vaccinated people are likely to have infections and Covid 19 diseases, “albeit in a small and predictable proportion”.

The WHO called for the rate of vaccination in high-risk groups to be accelerated and for containment plans to be in place to maintain essential parts of the health system. “Omikron has an unprecedented number of spike mutations, some of which are of concern for their potential impact on the course of the pandemic,” the WHO found.

However, in order to better understand why the variant has the potential to circumvent the protection provided by vaccinations or previous infections, further research is necessary.

More and more confirmed cases worldwide

Meanwhile, the worrisome variant of the virus is being detected in more and more countries. Scotland reported six confirmed Omicron cases. It is noticeable that not all infected people were previously traveling, according to the authorities.

The Ministry of Health wants to track who those affected have been in contact with in order to find out where the virus came from. The total number of cases of infection with the new variant confirmed so far in Great Britain rose to nine. Cases from Austria and Canada were also confirmed. Switzerland is investigating a suspected case.

Israel reported a second Omicron case. According to media reports, it is a vaccinated woman who returned to Israel from South Africa. She is in good condition. The Ministry of Health is now trying to find contact persons. In addition, eleven suspected cases of infection with the Omikron variant would be checked, reported the newspaper “Haaretz”. The Israeli government decided on Sunday to reintroduce the controversial cell phone monitoring of sick people to contain the new variant.

Entry ban in Israel and Japan

On the night of Monday, new travel restrictions also came into force in Israel. Until further notice, anyone returning to Israel from any country – including vaccinated Israelis – must be isolated for at least three days upon entry. Foreigners are initially banned from entering the country for two weeks.

Japan also closed its borders to foreign citizens to protect against the Omikron variant. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced that foreigners would be banned from entering the country from midnight on Tuesday. Japanese returning from certain countries would have to be quarantined in separate facilities, he added.

South Africa criticizes travel restrictions

South Africa, where the virus variant was first detected, protested against the entry bans issued in several countries for people from southern Africa. These measures are of no help, says Health Minister Joe Phaahla at a press conference. He told the US government that it would make things more difficult. He announced a statement by the countries of southern Africa at the World Health Assembly condemning the entry bans.

Phaahla also warned against panic about Omicron. There is no reason for that, he said. Scientists tried to determine whether the new variant of the coronavirus was more contagious than the known and which vaccines could prevent a serious course of the disease. Everything is being done to ensure that the health system is prepared for Omikron.

Warning of scaremongering

At the same time, the South African virologist Salim Abdool Karim expects an increase in nationwide corona infections of around 10,000 new cases by the end of the week. But he too warned against panic. In his opinion, the appearance of the new variant was hardly surprising: “We had expected it – we just didn’t know anything about how and when,” he said.

The new Omikron variant is relatively easy to prove and there is hardly any reason to change previous treatment methods. Even if it remains questionable whether previous vaccines now offer sufficient protection, it is likely to remain high. The early discovery of the variant by South African experts is therefore no reason for overreactions such as border closings, said Karim.

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