“We take omicron very seriously. We are now in a race against time, because we do not know everything about this variant, but it is a variant of concern “, said yesterday the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, who explained that scientists need between two to three weeks to have a” complete picture ”About“ the characteristics of the mutations ”of this new variant.
Restrictions on flights from southern Africa, where omicron was first identified, save time for the investigation. Meanwhile, Von der Leyen emphasizes, we must reduce contacts, vaccinate and give booster doses “as much as possible”, in addition to complying with the measures of social distancing, ventilation and use of a mask.
More than 150 Spanish travelers in South Africa and neighboring countries tried yesterday to return to Spain, saving international restrictions on flights from those countries, diplomatic sources informed Efe.
This is the case of the Galician professional golfer Santiago Tarrío, who was playing the Joburg Open these days in South Africa. At 9:15 p.m. last night, he told Faro de Vigo that he was about to board at the Johannesburg airport to return to Europe via Amsterdam. All the players on the European golf circuit also expected to come out in the same way.
Meanwhile, the South African authorities have criticized the cancellation of flights, considering it a illegal blocking, and all for an “unnecessary panic”, According to one of the discoverers of the omicron variant of the coronavirus, Dr. Angelique Coetzee. This researcher, president of the South African Medical Association, has assured the BBC that the symptoms of infection with this lineage are, according to the data she handles at the moment, “very weak”.
“What we are seeing in South Africa and, remember, I am at the epicenter, it is very weak. For us they are mild cases“, he pointed. “I’m pretty sure that in the UK”, where two cases have been confirmed, “there is unnecessary panic, although within two weeks I could be saying otherwise.”
It would not be the first time that a new variant causes alarm and devastates a certain area but does not spread globally. This was the case of the gamma variant, from Manaus, and the South African variant beta. Of both cases were detected in Spain but they never came to occupy an important part of the ecological niche that the alpha (British) and now the delta (Indian) did take over. It remains to be seen if omicron is even more transmittable and supersedes the delta.
British Health Minister Sajid Javid warned that there are reasons to think that current vaccines are “less effective”Against the omicron and defended the restrictions announced on Saturday by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, including the return of the obligation to wear a mask in stores and on public transport.
The World Health Organization (WHO) was this Sunday against the drastic travel restrictions applied to southern Africa. He demanded that decisions be guided by science and that African countries be supported.
Israel, first country to close its borders
Israel is, since last midnight, the first country in the world to completely close its borders to any foreign visitor to reduce the expansion of the omicron variant. The shutdown will last a minimum of two weeks, and the authorities have imposed a mandatory quarantine on returning Israeli citizens.
Israel has so far confirmed a case of omicron, an Israeli woman who returned from Malawi, and has 12 other suspects, also travelers from Africa.
New York in a state of emergency
The state of New York has declared a state of emergency as an exceptional measure in the face of the appearance of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
The governor of the state, the democrat Kathy Hochul, has been one of the first officials in the country to make a decision regarding the new variant of the virus, points out the newspaper “The Hill”.
The main person in charge of the fight against the coronavirus in the country, the immunologist Anthony Fauci, said on Saturday that he would be “surprised” if the omicron variant was already on US soil.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.