Coronavirus: 'Variant of concern' Omicron raises fears globally; cases have been detected in these countries

A new coronavirus (COVID-19) variant, first found in South Africa has alarmed the authorities worldwide. The scientists are worried over the possible impact of variant, that labelled as B.1.1.529. 

Where have cases been detected so far?

South African

The new coronavirus (COVID-19) variant, which is the latest and said to be the most heavily mutated version discovered so far, was first detected in South Africa. 

South African scientists detected a small number of the variant - called B.1.1.529 - on Tuesday (November 23), in samples from November 14-16. A day after that, South African scientists sequenced more genomes, informed the government that they were concerned and asked the World Health Organization (WHO) to convene its technical working group on virus evolution for Friday. 

So far, the country has identified around 100 cases of the variant, mostly from its most populated province, Gauteng.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Botswana

Botswana on Sunday said that it had reported 19 cases of the new Covid variant.

"As of today we have recorded a total of 19 cases of the variant," Health Minister Edwin Dikoloti said at a press conference in the capital Gaborone. He further said that most of Botswana's cases have come from abroad.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Hong Kong

The strain has also been detected in Hong Kong among travellers from South Africa. Hong Kong's government on Friday said it will ban non-Hong Kong residents arriving from eight southern African states from entering the territory if they had stayed in those countries within the past 21 days.

Hong Kong has one case, in a traveller from South Africa and Israel one in a traveller returning from Malawi.

The measure, effective from Saturday, affects people arriving from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe, the government said in a statement.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Israel

Israel identified the first case of the new Covid variant, the health ministry said on Friday. The new variant, which has a large number of mutations, was first detected in South Africa. 

The health ministry said, "The variant discovered in southern African states has been identified in Israel."  

Israel said it has quarantined three people, one having just returned from Malawi.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Belgium

Belgium detected Europe's first confirmed case of the new variant of COVID-19 on Friday (November 26), and at the same time announced measures aimed at curbing a rapidly spreading fourth wave of coronavirus infections. 

Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke told a news conference that a case of variant B.1.1.529 had been found in an unvaccinated person who had developed symptoms and tested positive on November 22. 

The person returned on November 11 from Egypt via Turkey. The health ministry did not give the individual's nationality, age or gender. 

(Photograph:Reuters)

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