As more countries try to isolate themselves by imposing travel restrictions, new cases of the Omicron Covid variant have been detected around the world, with two cases reported in Australia.
Omicron was first discovered in South Africa and has since been discovered in the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Botswana, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, and the United Kingdom.
The discovery of Omicron, dubbed a “variant of concern” on Friday by the World Health Organization, sparked worries that it could resist vaccines and prolong the nearly two-year COVID pandemic.
Omicron is potentially more contagious than previous variants, but experts do not know yet if it will cause more or less severe COVID-19.
Swiss vote to approve COVID restrictions
Swiss voters have backed the government’s pandemic response plan in a referendum by a clear majority, paving the way for the continuation of exceptional measures to stem the rising tide of cases.
The government’s tally showed a majority of 62.01 percent of voters supporting the law passed earlier this year to provide financial aid to people hit by the COVID-19 crisis and allowing for COVID-certificates, which provide proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test and which are currently required to enter restaurants and certain events.
UK records third case of Omicron
The UK has recorded the third case of the Omicron variant, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said, adding that the individual, who was no longer in the UK, was linked to travel to southern Africa.
UKHSA said that while in the UK, the individual was in Westminster in central London.
Philippines tightens border controls
The Philippines has further tightened border controls to keep out the Omicron variant, adding seven European countries to a travel ban that initially covered seven African nations.
The country’s coronavirus task force placed Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium and Italy under its “red list” until December 15, banning the entry of travellers from these countries.
Morocco bans all inbound flights for two weeks
Morocco will ban all inbound international passenger flights for two weeks starting November 29 due to concerns over the Omicron variant, the Moroccan government has said in a statement.
US should be prepared to do ‘anything’: Fauci
Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert, has said that Americans should be prepared to do “anything and everything” to fight the spread of the variant Omicron.
It is “too early to say” whether we need new lockdowns or mandates, Fauci told ABC News.
“You want to be prepared to do anything and everything,” he said.
Germany confirms third case of Omicron
Health officials in the German state of Hesse have confirmed a case of the Omicron variant, bringing the total number of cases in Germany to three.
The Hesse case was confirmed by sequencing, the state’s social affairs minister Kai Klose tweeted.
Indonesia bans arrivals from eight African countries
Indonesia will ban the entry of travellers who have been in eight African countries and extend quarantine times for all arrivals to curb the spread of the Omicron variant, officials have said.
The ban extends to people who have been in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, Eswatini or Nigeria in the past 14 days.
Delegates attending G20 meetings, which Indonesia chairs, will not be affected.
Denmark registers Omicron variant in two travellers
Denmark has registered two cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant in travellers from South Africa, according to the country’s infectious disease authority.
“This was to be expected, and our strategy is therefore to continue intensive monitoring of the infection in the country,” Henrik Ullum, CEO of the Statens Serum Institute, said in a statement.
The two people, who travelled to Denmark by plane, have been put in isolation and authorities are tracing any close contacts.
Absolute chaos’ in South Africa as flights grounded
Disbelief and confusion washed over South Africa as the announcement of the discovery of the Omicron COVID-19 variant grounded flights and raised fears of a hard lockdown in Africa’s most developed economy.
Flights from the country to the United States, United Kingdom and nations in Europe were swiftly banned after South African scientists officially announced the discovery of the virus strain on Thursday.
Dutch authorities find 13 cases of Omicron variant
Dutch health authorities have said that 13 cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant have been found in the Netherlands among passengers who were on flights from South Africa earlier this week.
The National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) confirmed the cases in a statement.
UK to enforce new COVID rules from Tuesday
Britain’s government has defended the pace and scale of its response to the new Omicron strain of COVID-19 against criticism that it was again falling behind the curve.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said mandatory mask-wearing will return to shops and public transport in England on Tuesday, and told families to plan for Christmas “as normal”, despite new rules to tackle the Omicron variant.
Also from Tuesday, all passengers arriving in Britain are being instructed to take a PCR test for COVID-19 and self-isolate until they register negative.
Dozens on South Africa flights test positive for COVID in Netherlands
Dutch health authorities say they have detected 61 COVID-19 cases among people who flew in from South Africa.
In a statement on Saturday, the Dutch Health Authority (GDD) said that the cases were discovered among 624 passengers who arrived at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport on two flights on Friday.
Israel tightens travel restrictions over new COVID variant
Israel says it will ban the entry of all foreigners into the country, making it the first nation to shut its borders completely in response to a new and potentially more contagious coronavirus variant.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the ban, pending government approval, would last 14 days.
Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Sudan ban flights from African countries
Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Sudan have suspended flights with a number of African countries due to Omicron.
Saudi state news agency SPA, citing a source with the interior ministry, said direct flights with Angola, Comoros, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Seychelles and Zambia had been suspended.
On Friday, the kingdom banned flights from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe amid Omicron fears.
Bahrain also banned passengers from Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia, according to the state news agency, BNA. Bahraini nationals and holders of valid visas to Bahrain, however, were allowed to enter.
Health authorities in Sudan also banned flights from Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe over the variant.
Omicron variant likely in France: Health minister
Omicron is probably already circulating in France, its health minister said, adding that the government was tightening restrictions to contain it.
“Once the variant is circulating in England, in Italy, in Belgium, it is probable that there are already cases in circulation here. We will identify them and (…) we will slow down its spread as much as possible,” Olivier Veran told reporters at a vaccination centre in Paris.
France is in the midst of a fifth wave of the virus. It recorded more than 37,000 positive cases on Saturday and a sharp rise in the number of patients in intensive care.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES