On Sunday, the Omicron coronavirus strain spread throughout the world, with additional cases discovered in the Netherlands, Denmark, and Australia, even as more nations implemented travel restrictions in an attempt to isolate themselves.
The World Health Organization (WHO) stated that it is still unclear if Omicron, which was discovered in Southern Africa, is more transmissible than other variations or produces more severe illness.
The World Health Organization said, “Preliminary data suggests that there are increasing rates of hospitalization in South Africa, but this may be due to increasing overall numbers of people becoming infected, rather than a result of specific infection.”
According to the report, determining the severity of Omicron “will take days to many weeks.”
The discovery of Omicron sparked global concern, with governments scrambling to impose additional travel restrictions and financial markets selling off, fearing the variety might resist vaccines and derail a fledgling economic recovery following a two-year global pandemic.
The WHO stated in its statement that it was working with technical specialists to determine the possible impact of the variation on existing COVID-19 countermeasures, such as vaccinations.
Britain said on Monday that it will call an emergency meeting of G7 health ministers to review the developments.
The variant was detected in 13 passengers on two aircraft arriving in Amsterdam from South Africa on Friday, according to Dutch health authorities. Authorities had examined all 600 passengers on the flights and discovered 61 coronavirus infections, which were then tested for Omicron.
Dutch military police reported they arrested a married couple who attempted to escape the country after testing positive for COVID-19 at a hotel where they were quarantined.
Omicron, deemed a “variant of concern” by the WHO last week because it is possibly more infectious than earlier versions, has now been found in Australia, Belgium, Botswana, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, France, Canada, and South Africa.
Many nations have implemented travel bans or restrictions on Southern Africa in an attempt to halt the spread. Friday saw a drop in financial markets and a drop in oil prices.
On Sunday, a South African specialist who was among the first to detect a new coronavirus strain indicated that Omicron symptoms were so far minor that they could be treated at home.
According to Dr. Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association, unlike Delta, patients have not experienced the loss of smell or taste, and there has been no significant decline in oxygen levels with the new variety.
Israel has banned the entry of all foreigners and reintroduced counter-terrorism phone-tracking technology to contain the spread of Omicron. Britain has announced measures including stricter testing rules for people arriving in the country and requiring mask-wearing in some settings.
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday that his government was considering imposing compulsory COVID-19 shots for people in certain places and activities.
Two instances of the coronavirus’s Omicron strain, originally discovered in Southern Africa last week, have been reported in Canada, provincial health officials announced on Sunday.
According to the Ontario government, the instances were detected in two persons who recently travelled to Nigeria.
The emergence of Omicron has sparked worldwide concern, with governments scrambling to impose additional travel restrictions and markets being sold off, fearing the strain may be resistant to vaccines and destabilize a fledgling economic comeback following a two-year global epidemic.
To assist in combat the spread of the newly found strain of COVID-19, Canada blocked its borders to international tourists who had recently visited seven Southern African countries in the previous two weeks.
“Today, the province of Ontario has confirmed two cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in Ottawa, both of which were reported in individuals with recent travel from Nigeria. Ottawa Public Health is conducting case and contact management and the patients are in isolation,” the statement said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said that it is unclear if Omicron is more contagious than other forms or causes more severe illness.
Philippines Imposing Travel Ban
The Philippines has placed travel restrictions on visitors from South Africa, Botswana, and surrounding countries “effective immediately” owing to fears about a new COVID-19 version.
The deployment of “heightened border control procedures,” according to Cabinet Secretary and Presidential Spokesperson Karlo Nograles, is to prevent the introduction of the variation known as B.1.1.529, which is thought to have multiple mutations.
Nograles stated that the government’s inter-agency COVID-19 task team recommended the temporary suspension of inbound international flights from South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia, among other countries, on Friday night.
Passengers arriving from or departing from these countries during the previous 14 days will be temporarily prevented from entering the nation.
Nograles said that the prohibition will remain in effect until December 15.
According to Nograles, the government has authorized the Bureau of Quarantine to work with local government units “to trace passengers from these countries who may have arrived in the previous seven days prior to the temporary suspension of inbound travel.”
Meanwhile, all travellers passing via these countries will be permitted to enter but must adhere to existing testing and quarantine requirements.
On Friday, the Department of Health (DOH) announced 863 new coronavirus infections, increasing the total number of confirmed cases throughout Southeast Asia to 2,830,387.
For three days in a row, it has reported less than 1,000 instances. The DOH also announced that 142 additional persons died as a result of COVID-19 problems, increasing the total number of deaths in the country to 48,017.
Vaccine Inequity and Hesitancy
A new variant of coronavirus likely came from a region with low vaccination rates. A variant, known as Omicron, was first identified in South Africa, although it is unclear whether it originated there.
Viruses are more likely to mutate in places where vaccination is low and transmission high. Many countries have reacted to the news by shutting their borders to travellers coming from the region. Only 7.5% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
Vaccine hesitancy remains a big problem in many countries, including South Africa. WHO’s target of having 40% of the population of all countries vaccinated by 2021 appears to be out of reach.
“In the absence of mass vaccination, COVID is not only spreading uninhibited among unprotected people but is mutating”.
Dr. Richard Lessells: “What I found disgusting and really distressing [….] was not just the travel ban being implemented by the UK and Europe, but that that was the only reaction or the strongest reaction.”
“There was no word of support that they’re going to offer to African countries to help us control the pandemic,” he said.