Omicron Update

Mon 06 December 2021:

Infographic: How Omicron compares with other COVID variants

INTERACTIVE- COVID19 - Omicron

WHO says preliminary evidence indicates an ‘increased risk of reinfection with Omicron’ compared with other coronavirus variants, but information is limited. Read more

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How to protect yourself and others

The WHO advises the following steps to protect yourself and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

    1. Get vaccinated
    2. Wear a mask
    3. Maintain physical distancing
    4. Ventilate indoor spaces
    5. Keep good hygiene
    6. Self-isolate if you develop symptoms
INTERACTIVE- COVID19 - How to protect yourself

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World Health Organization (WHO) epidemiologist Maria van Kerkhove said on Wednesday that data should be available “within days” that will give an indication of how contagious Omicron is.

BioNTech’s CEO earlier said the vaccine it makes in partnership with Pfizer should offer strong protection against severe disease from Omicron.

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MOST PATIENTS IN COVID-19 WARDS IN TSHWANE – UNVACCINATED, YOUNG

 

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INDIA REPORTS THE HIGHEST COVID-19 FATALITIES SINCE JULY, AS STATES UPDATE TALLIES

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BRUSSELS PROTEST AGAINST COVID RESTRICTIONS TURNS VIOLENT

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The number of Omicron strain cases in India rose to 12 on Sunday, after seven new cases of the mutated Covid variant were recorded in the state of Maharashtra and one more case in New Delhi.

About 50% of India’s adult population are fully vaccinated, the federal health ministry said.

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HOSPITAL ADMISSIONS NOT INCREASING AT ALARMING RATE, SAYS RAMPHOSA

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Senegal Detects First Case Of Omicron Variant

A first case of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 has been reported in Senegal, in a visitor who was leaving the country after an international meeting in capital Dakar, a research institute said.

The IRESSEF health body said late Saturday that the 58-year-old patient arrived in Senegal by air from another West African country on November 22.

He had been vaccinated earlier this year with the AstraZeneca and Pfizer shots and had no symptoms by Saturday.

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Mexico Detects First Case Of COVID-19 Variant Omicron

 Mexico detected its first case of the COVID-19 Omicron variant in a person who arrived in the country from South Africa on Nov. 21, the Health Ministry said on Sunday.

According to a ministry statement, six days after arriving in Mexico, the fully-vaccinated South African businessman presented symptoms of COVID-19, was tested and found to have the Omicron variant.

The 51-year-old patient has been hospitalized in Mexico City.

“So far, the people who had contact with this first case have not registered symptoms, warning signs or positivity for the SARS-CoV-2 virus” that causes COVID-19, the ministry said.

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Tunisia Confirms 1st Case Of Omicron Variant Infection

A 23-year-old man from a sub-Saharan African country has been confirmed as Tunisia’s first case of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, the country’s Health Minister Ali Mrabet said on Friday.

The man landed at the Tunis-Carthage International Airport from Istanbul, Turkey, Mrabet said in a statement carried on Al-Wataniya, the state’s central television.

After testing positive for the virus at the airport, the man was sent to a local hotel where he would be subjected to mandatory quarantine, according to the official.

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Australia Provisionally Approves Pfizer Vaccine For Children Aged 5-11

he Pfizer vaccine against the coronavirus has been provisionally approved for five to 11-year-olds in Australia, the country’s Department of Health announced on Sunday.

“The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) provisionally approved the Comirnaty Paediatric (Pfizer) COVID-19 vaccine for 5 to 11-year-olds on 5 December 2021,” the health department said in a statement, adding that the decision was based “on a careful evaluation of available data to support its (vaccine’s) safety and efficacy among this age group.”

Children will be given one-third of the dose approved for people aged 12 and over. The Primary course of vaccination for five to 11 year olds in Australia will include two shots of the Pfizer vaccine.

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Seven Omicron Cases Detected In Finland

Seven cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant have been detected in Finland as of Saturday, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) said.

“Finland has identified seven cases of the Omikron coronavirus variant so far. All identified cases are related to the same chain of infections,” the THL said in a statement.

Out of the seven cases, one was identified in the hospital districts of Helsinki, four in the country’s southwest and two more in the North Savo region, the institute said.

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Children warned of risks of hospitalisation due to Omicron

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Omicron spreads in Australia, testing reopening plans

A Sydney Omicron cluster grew to 13 cases and an infection was suspected in the state of Queensland in a person who travelled from South Africa and that genome sequencing was ongoing.

After Australia reported its first community transmission of Omicron on Friday, further cases were expected over the weekend when more tests results come, said Kerry Chant, chief health officer of New South Wales, of which Sydney is the capital.

The Australian Capital Territory, home to the capital Canberra, was also on alert for further spread after one of its new coronavirus cases was found to be a close contact of the Territory’s first Omicron case reported on Friday.

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Toronto reports its first 3 Omicron cases

The Canadian city of Toronto has reported its first three cases of Omicron, local health officials said, bringing to at least 15 the number of cases nationwide.

Two of those individuals had recently returned from Nigeria, while another individual had returned from Switzerland, according to Toronto Public Health (TPH).

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Most cases in the US linked to Delta variant: health expert

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Melbourne pro- and anti-vaccine protests

Pro-vaccination demonstrators have held a rally in Melbourne as their opponents protested in the Australian city.

Hundreds of anti-vaccine protesters gathered in the Treasury Gardens to voice their opposition against a coronavirus vaccine mandate.
They also protested against an incoming law which would give Victoria state’s government wider powers to manage a pandemic.

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US To Ship 9Mln COVID-19 Vaccine Doses To Africa, 2Mln Worldwide

The United States will ship 9 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to African countries and 2 million doses worldwide later on Friday amid concerns about the novel coronavirus Omicron variant that was first detected in South Africa, White House Assistant Press Secretary Kevin Munoz said.

“Today, we are shipping 9 million vaccine doses to Africa and another 2 million worldwide. We need every country to step up with the same urgency and ambition as the United States,” Munoz said via Twitter.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden pledged to accelerate the United States’ efforts to vaccinate people throughout the world.

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SWITZERLAND: 2,000 PEOPLE, MOSTLY CHILDREN, QUARANTINED AFTER AFTER 2 OMICRON CASES

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US FDA aiming for speedy review of Omicron vaccines and drugs: WSJ

The US Food and Drug Administration is setting up guidelines to expedite reviews of COVID-19 vaccines and drugs targeting the Omicron variant, the Wall Street Journal has reported.

Companies working on Omicron-tailored vaccines would be expected to meet standards similar to those required for the authorisation of boosters, the report said.

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England’s COVID-19 prevalence rises, led by Delta, not Omicron

The prevalence of COVID-19 infections in England rose to around one in 60 people in the week ending November 27, Britain’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said, led higher by the dominant Delta variant rather than newly identified Omicron.

The prevalence was up from one in 65 reported the previous week, the ONS said.

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Omicron symptoms ‘mild’, says South African doctor

I Choose #VacciNation - Dr. Angelique Coetzee - Chairperson, SAMA - SA Corona Virus Online Portal

In an interview with Al Jazeera, South African doctor Angelique Coetzee, a private practitioner and chair of the South African Medical Association, who was one of the first to suspect a different coronavirus strain among patients, said what doctors “are seeing at a primary healthcare level [is that] … Omicron doesn’t seem to be more deadly”.

“It seems [it is] very fast-spreading, and the symptoms that we are seeing … are mild,” she said.

“But we still need to be worried because we never know which patient will get [a] severe disease or not. That data will only be available going forward,” Coetzee said.

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FOURTH WAVE SEES ‘STARK’ INCREASE IN COVID-19 INFECTIONS IN CHILDREN UNDER FIVE

 

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Entire school being quarantined in Switzerland  

Two confirmed cases of the Omicron variant at a school in Switzerland has led to the entire school being quarantined, according to a report on swissinfo.ch.

Around 2,000 people, including 1,600 children at the La Châtaigneraie campus of the International School of Geneva in Founex are said to have been placed in quarantine,

On Thursday, the cantonal medical services of the cantons of Geneva and Vaud (where the school is located) took a joint decision to quarantine all pupils and staff on the campus for ten days.

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Top US lawmaker calls for ‘vigilance’ against Omicron variant

Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the US House of Representative, called for “vigilance” against the Omicron COVID-19 variant and urged people to get vaccinated and receive their booster shot, echoing President Joe Biden’s remarks on Thursday.

“We must be vigilant. We urge everyone to be vaccinated. The person who incurred the Omicron in South Africa was vaccinated, but he didn’t have the booster,” she said, referring to the first US Omicron case in California. “And so, if your time is six months since your last shot, we encourage the booster.”

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Omicron COVID-19 variant case identified in Colorado

Health officials in the US state of Colorado have identified a case of the Omicron COVID-19 variant in a woman who recently travelled to southern Africa, local media reported on Thursday.

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Canada records another new case of Omicron variant

The town of Durham in the central Canadian province of Ontario has recorded a case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, the local health authority said in a tweet.

The person involved had travelled to one of the 10 countries in southern Africa that Ottawa had identified as high risk. The announcement brings to 10 the number of people in Canada diagnosed with the new variant.

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UK REGULATOR APPROVES GLAXOSMITHKLINE DRUG TO TREAT COVID-19

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Zimbabwe detects case of Omicron variant in country

Zimbabwe has detected case of Omicron variant in the country, its Vice President Constantino Chiwenga said on state television. ”

We are now in a particularly dangerous period once again, where the fourth wave is slowly visiting us with the identification of the B.1.1.529 or the Omicron variant of COVID-19,” Chiwenga, who is also the country’s health minister said on national TV.

Chiwenga did not give details of how many cases of Omicron infections had been recorded in the country. As of Dec.1, Zimbabwe had reported 4,707 deaths from a total 135,337 cases.

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UK orders 114 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for 2022/23

Britain has ordered a further 114 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for 2022 and 2023, the government announced on Thursday.

British Health Secretary Sajid Javid said vaccines still remained the UK’s best line of defense.

“We have signed contracts with Pfizer and Moderna to get an additional 114 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine doses for the next two calendar years,” he stated.

The contracts are for 60 million more doses of the Moderna vaccine and 54 million more doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

“I accelerated this purchase in light of this new variant – which includes purchases of modified vaccines – to make sure that we have got the vaccines that we need for the long term,” Javid said.

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Britain reports another 10 cases of Omicron variant

Britain said it had identified a further 10 confirmed cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant of concern, bringing the total number of cases to 42.

The UK Health Security Agency said there had been seven more cases of Omicron in England, with three more cases identified in Scotland.

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Israel halts controversial tech to track omicron variant

Israel said it was halting the use of a controversial phone tracking technology to trace possible cases of the new coronavirus variant.

Earlier this week, the government approved travel restrictions and authorised the country’s internal security agency to use the phone monitoring technology for contact tracing people infected by the omicron variant in Israel.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office said in a statement that emergency measures authorising “cellular monitoring” of people who are infected by omicron, and those who might have been in contact with those cases, would expire at midnight.

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Norway reports large outbreak of omicron variant infections

At least 50 people in and around Norway’s capital have been infected with the omicron coronavirus variant and the cases are connected to a Norwegian company’s Christmas party in an Oslo restaurant, officials said.

“More cases are expected. Effective tracing is being done to limit transmission routes and prevent major outbreaks,” the Oslo Municipality said in a statement.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health said that those affected live in Oslo and surrounding municipalities, and “the infection detection team in Oslo has contacted the municipalities concerned to start infection detection.”

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Norway introduces new anti-Covid measures in Oslo

Norway introduced new anti-Covid measures in greater Oslo after a suspected cluster of Omicron cases emerged among dozens of vaccinated people.

Face masks will be mandatory in public transport, shopping centres, shops and taxis when social distancing is not possible. People will have to work from home if possible and the number allowed to gather at indoor private events will be limited to 100, the government said.

The announcement came after the Omicron variant was detected in one of dozens of people who tested positive for Covid after a Christmas dinner in Oslo of 120 vaccinated people last week.

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Spain detects first domestic case of COVID-19 Omicron variant

Regional authorities in Madrid said  they had detected Spain’s first domestic case of the COVID-19 Omicron variant in a vaccinated person without links to risk countries, and were investigating two other similar suspected cases.

It was the fourth confirmed case of the variant in Spain, but the first proving that Omicron is already circulating in the country.

The person affected in Madrid had received two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and had no history of travel or close contact with another person from countries where this variant has been detected, authorities said.

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Fauci: It could take weeks to gain more insight on Omicron

Top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci says it could take two weeks or more to gain an insight into how easily Omicron spreads, the severity of illness it causes, and whether it can evade currently available vaccines.

Much remains unknown about the new variant, which was first detected by South African researchers on November 8 and has spread to at least two dozen countries.

South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said early epidemiological data suggests Omicron was able to evade some immunity, but existing vaccines should still protect against severe disease and death.

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Daily review of travel restrictions due to omicron variant -EU Commission

The European Commission on Wednesday recommended a daily review and revisions of travel restrictions to help stop the spread of the new omicron coronavirus variant.

“We are facing again a very worrying epidemiological situation,” EU commissioner for health Stella Kyriakides told a news conference presenting the EU executive body’s latest guidance for EU member states amid the steeply rising COVID-19 cases and the appearance of the omicron variant across the bloc.

In a new statement adopted on Wednesday, the European Commission advised EU countries to continue to keep their borders open with daily reviews of essential travel restrictions, to coordinate with each other to track the eventual spread of the new variant, and to stay ready for all necessary controls.

“Every single day counts in this situation,” said Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president.

She explained that the bloc faces a double challenge with a surge of delta variant cases accompanied by increased hospitalizations and laboratories overwhelmed by test demands, while the new omicron variant has also been detected in the EU.

“We should hope for the best, and prepare for the worst,” she said.

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‘Prepare for the worst, hope for the best’

“Prepare for the worst, hope for the best,” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, told reporters amid the spread of the Omicron variant.

Von der Leyen made the statement on Wednesday as the EU brought forward the start of its vaccine rollout for 5-to-11-year-olds by a week to December 13, with the president of the EU’s executive body saying it was in a “race against time” to stave off the new variant.

Britain and the US have both expanded their booster programmes in response to the new variant, although the WHO says wealthy countries should instead share more vaccines with vulnerable people in poorer countries where variants are most likely to emerge as long as inoculation rates are low.

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23 COUNTRIES HAVE REPORTED CASES OF OMICRON; US DETECTS FIRST CASE IN CALIFORNIA

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NO DATA YET ON DEATHS RELATED TO OMICRON, WHO SAYS

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Pfizer Covid Vaccine For Children In EU To Be Available In Two Weeks

The EU’s main Covid vaccine provider, BioNTech/Pfizer, will have jabs available for children in the bloc in two weeks’ time, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday.

She said she had spoken with the German-US joint venture about the issue the day before, and they said “they are able to accelerate — in other words children’s vaccines will be available as of December 13.”

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Germany reports highest Covid-19 death toll in nine months

Germany on Wednesday reported 446 Covid-19 related deaths – the highest daily figure since mid-February – bringing the country’s total death toll to 101,790.

Gernot Marx, president of the DIVI association for intensive care medicine, warned that the country could still have 6,000 people in intensive care by Christmas, which would be above the peak of last winter.

“The situation is really becoming increasingly tight,” Marx told ZDF television, calling for the government to consider a temporary lockdown. “We need to save the clinics from collapse.”

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EU to make vaccines available for children as of December 13

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has announced that Covid-19 vaccines will be made available across the bloc for children aged between five and 11 as of December 13.

The EU executive is urging all 27 member states to step up their vaccination campaigns as Europe faces what Von der Leyen described as “a severe double challenge”.

“On one hand, we are amid the fourth wave… On the other hand, we are facing a new threat that is the new variant Omicron,” she said.

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Ghana, South Korea, Ireland report first Omicron cases

Ghana, South Korea and Ireland on Wednesday joined the growing list of countries to report their first cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

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EU MUST CONSIDER MANDATORY COVID JABS, SAYS VON DER LEYEN

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India Postpones the Resumption Of Scheduled International Flights Due To Virus Variant Concerns


India will not resume scheduled flights abroad from December 15, the civil aviation authority said Wednesday, citing the emergence of new coronavirus variants of concern.

“An appropriate decision indicating the effective date of resumption of scheduled commercial international passenger services shall be notified in due course,” the Directorate General of Civil Aviation said.

The regulator grounded scheduled flights to and from India in spring 2020 after the outbreak began. It has since made arrangements on air travel “bubbles” with dozens of countries that allow travelers on designated flights to skip quarantine.

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Decision On Travel Restrictions Within EU To Be Made By End Of Week – French Gov’t

The EU will make a decision on travel restrictions within the bloc due to the spread of the Omicron coronavirus strain by the end of the week, French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday.

“The question is raised about the mandatory negative result of the PCR test for travel within the EU. We are working on this issue in coordination with our European partners. The decision will be made by the end of the week,” Attal told a briefing.

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NO EVIDENCE YET THAT VACCINES WON’T PROTECT AGAINST SEVERE DISEASE FROM OMICRON: OXFORD UNIVERSITY

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Brazil confirms 1st Latin American cases of omicron variant

The Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency (ANVISA) announced Tuesday that two Brazilians had tested positive for the omicron COVID-19 variant, marking the first confirmed cases in Latin America.

A traveler arriving in Sao Paulo from South Africa and his wife, who had not travelled, both tested positive for the new variant, ANVISA said in a statement.

The traveler landed at Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos International Airport on Nov. 23 with a negative test for COVID-19, but before a planned return trip, the couple tested positive.

Samples from individuals with the omicron variant will be sent to the Adolfo Lutz Institute for further analysis, the statement added.

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SA DETECTS CLOSE TO 4 400 NEW COVID-19 CASES AS OMICRON VARIANT SPREADS

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Malaysia to impose temporary ban on travelers from countries where the Omicron form has been reported

Malaysia is set to temporarily ban entry of travellers from countries that have reported the Omicron variant, the health ministry has said.

The announcement was made during a press conference about 1pm local time.

The country will also delay plans to set up so-called Vaccinated Travel Lanes with those countries, health minister Khairy Jamaluddin told reporters.

We will have more on this development shortly.

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First case of COVID-19 Omicron variant confirmed in Nigeria

Nigeria has confirmed its first cases of the Omicron variant among travellers from South Africa, according to the centre for disease control.

“Through case and genomic surveillance at the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control through its National Reference Laboratory, Nigeria confirmed its first case of the Omicron variant, also known as the B.1.1.529 lineage,” the health body said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Samples obtained for the stipulated day two test for all travellers to Nigeria were positive for this variant in three persons with history of travel to South Africa.”

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Japan has found a second person who has tested positive with the Covid-19 Omicron variant, broadcaster FNN reported on Wednesday.

The first case of the variant was discovered in a person arriving from Namibia on Tuesday.

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Germany is reporting a daily rise of 67,186 Covid cases and 446 deaths, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute of public health.

The figures bring the nationwide tally to 5,903,999 confirmed coronavirus cases and 101,790 deaths.

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226 CASES OF OMICRON COVID-19 STRAIN CONFIRMED IN 20 COUNTRIES – FAUCI

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Eight more Omicron cases found in England

A further eight cases of have been identified in England, taking the total number to 13, Britain’s Health Security Agency said.

“The individuals that have tested positive and their contacts are all isolating. Work is underway to identify any links to travel to southern Africa,” UKHSA said.

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Lockdown ‘extremely unlikely’: PM Johnson

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that a new coronavirus lockdown was unlikely despite worries about the new coronavirus variant Omicron.

“I think another lockdown of the kind that we’ve had before is extremely unlikely,” Johnson said at a press conference. “But we keep everything under constant review.”

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WEF Says Will Continue To Prepare For Annual Meeting In Davos

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is continuing with the preparations for the annual meeting in Davos in January 2022 despite the emergence of the Omicron coronavirus strain, the WEF press service told Sputnik on Tuesday.

“We have a robust and practical health policy in place for the Annual Meeting and will continue preparations. We will continue to closely monitor the situation,” the WEF said.

In 2021, the annual meeting of the WEF in Davos was canceled due to the pandemic and the restrictive measures introduced by the Swiss government. In 2022, the WEF in Davos is scheduled for January 17-21.

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Face Mask Recommendation Reintroduced in Norway

Norwegians are recommended to start wearing face masks in public spaces, including transport and malls, due to the spread of the Omicron coronavirus strain and growing number of COVID-19 cases, the Norwegian government said on Tuesday.

“The government is introducing a national recommendation to use face masks on public transport, in taxis, in shops and shopping malls where it is impossible to maintain distance,” the government said in a statement.

People have also been advised to wear face masks when contacting health care workers.

In addition, the Norwegian government said it continues to recommend regularly testing schoolchildren in areas with rising infection numbers to avoid an extra burden on the healthcare sector.

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COVID-19 Vaccination For Children Aged 5-11 Is Approved In France

The French High Health Authority (HAS) announced on Tuesday that the coronavirus vaccination has been approved for children aged 5 to 11 in risk groups and vulnerable categories.

The statement from the French medical regulator follows the approval of the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine for children aged 5-11 at the EU level. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) on November 25 recommended expanding the use of the COVID-19 vaccine for children of this age category.

“In the current epidemiological context and in view of the available data, the High Authority for Health issues the draft decision on the vaccination of children in this age group recommending it for all those who are at risk of developing a serious form of the disease,” the regulator said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

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WHO’s chief urges states to take ‘rational’ measures

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) voiced concern that some states are introducing blanket measures aimed at the Omicron coronavirus variant that he said were “not evidence-based or effective on their own” and were penalising southern African countries that reported the strain so quickly.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a speech to the WHO’s 194 member states, urged them to take “rational, proportional risk-reduction measures” in keeping with the agency’s 2005 International Health Regulations.

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German man infected without travelling

Authorities in the eastern German city of Leipzig confirmed an infection with the Omicron variant in a 39-year-old man who had neither been abroad nor had contact with anyone who had been, news agency dpa reports.

Leipzig is in the eastern state of Saxony, which currently has Germany’s highest overall coronavirus infection rates.

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Blinken praises South Africa for detecting Omicron, sounding alarm

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken praised South Africa for detecting the new Omicron strain of the coronavirus variant and making it known to the world, adding that Washington was working to close the vaccination gap between poor and rich countries.

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Forty-two cases of COVID-19 Omicron variant confirmed in 10 EU states

Forty-two cases of the Omicron variant have been confirmed in 10 European Union countries, the head of the EU’s public health agency says, adding that they were mild or asymptomatic, although in younger age groups.

EU authorities were analysing another six “probable” cases, Andrea Ammon, who chairs the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), told an online conference organised by the EU’s Slovenian presidency.

“For the assessment whether it (Omicron) escapes immunity, we still have to wait until the investigations in the laboratories with sera from people who have recovered have been carried out. These are expected in a couple of weeks,” she said.

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Greece to make vaccinations for persons over 60 mandatory: PM

Greece has said that it will fine people over the age of 60 who have not received a first COVID-19 shot, as the country grappled with a new surge in coronavirus cases.

Authorities said they would impose a 100 euro fine on every individual over the age of 60 who was not vaccinated.

The measure would apply each month from January 16 onwards.

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Dutch found Omicron a week earlier than thought

Dutch health authorities say the new variant was present in the Netherlands a week earlier than previously believed and checks are under way to see how far it has spread.

The RIVM National Health and Environment Institute said it “has found the corona variant Omicron in two test samples that had already been taken in the Netherlands… on November 19 and 23”.

The first Omicron cases in the Netherlands were thought to be 14 infections on two flights from South Africa to Amsterdam on Friday, November 26. The two earlier Dutch infections also came before South Africa first reported the new strain on November 24 to the WHO.

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EMA chief: COVID-19 shot against Omicron could be approved in 3-4 months

The EU drug regulator could approve COVID-19 vaccines that have been adapted to target the new variant within three to four months if needed, although existing shots would continue to provide protection, the agency’s chief said.

Speaking to the European Parliament, European Medicines Agency (EMA) Executive Director Emer Cooke said it was not known if drugmakers would need to tweak their vaccines to protect against Omicron, but the agency was preparing for that possibility.

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China says Omicron will ‘lead to challenges’ for Winter Olympics

China has warned that the fast-spreading Omicron variant would cause challenges in hosting next February’s Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Although China has largely quashed the coronavirus through travel restrictions and snap lockdowns, recurrent domestic outbreaks linked to the Delta variant have put the authorities on high alert.

Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said “China has a lot of experience in responding to COVID-19” and that he “firmly believe[s] the Winter Olympics will be conducted smoothly”.

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‘UNSCIENTIFIC’ TRAVEL BANS MUST BE RESISTED – PRESIDENT RAMAPHOSA

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MISS FRANCE TESTS POSITIVE FOR COVID AFTER ARRIVING IN ISRAEL

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Vaccine effectiveness will likely drop against Omicron: Moderna CEO

Moderna CEO cheers coronavirus vaccine safety as 'gamechanger,' with 20M doses available by end of year | Fox Business

The head of drugmaker Moderna said COVID-19 vaccines are unlikely to be as effective against the Omicron variant of the coronavirus as they have been against the Delta variant.

“There is no world, I think, where (the effectiveness) is the same level . . . we had with Delta,” Moderna Chief Executive Stéphane Bancel told the Financial Times in an interview.

“I think it’s going to be a material drop. I just don’t know how much because we need to wait for the data. But all the scientists I’ve talked to . . . are like ‘this is not going to be good’.”

-Reuters

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Omicron COVID variant cause for ‘concern, not panic,’ Biden tells U.S.

Amid widespread concern over the new Omicron coronavirus variety, Joe Biden has advised Americans to receive COVID-19 vaccines. However, the US president says the strain should be considered a “cause for concern, not a cause for panic.”

Biden said senior US health officials are speaking with key vaccine makers and preparing for possible adjustments to account for Omicron’s mutations in remarks delivered at the White House on Monday. Read More

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Hong Kong expands travel curbs on Omicron fears, Australia reports 5 cases

Hong Kong expanded a ban on entry for non-residents from several countries as global health authorities raced to curb a potential outbreak of the Omicron virus, while Australia’s cabinet will review on Tuesday containment steps after five tested positive.

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More reports that Omicron appears to cause mild Covid – but too early to say for sure, experts warn

With the news of a new coronavirus variant circulating in South Africa, officials and health practitioners are concerned that it may lead to more severe disease, compared with previous variants.

But doctors treating patients infected with the variant, named Omicron, ahead of South Africa’s fourth wave, say their patients have mostly displayed mild symptoms.

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Ecuador halts flights from additional African nations

Ecuador joins the growing list of countries opting to restrict entry to passengers traveling from or via South Africaas well as other African countries.

The head of the World Health Organization in Africa earlier urged countries to keep borders open, saying banning flights over the potentially more transmissible Omicron strain “attacks global solidarity”.

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Canadian PM Trudeau and US president Biden issued public appeals for vaccination.

Trudeau said in a tweet on Monday night local time:

Let’s be clear: getting vaccinated is the best thing you can do right now.

So if you don’t have your shots yet, get them. And now that we have enough vaccine doses for every kid between the ages of 5 and 11 to get their first shot, make sure you get your kids vaccinated too.

Biden issued a video call around the same time, saying:

If you are vaccinated but still worried about the new variant, get your booster. If you aren’t vaccinated, get that shot.

 

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Japan confirms first case of Omicron variant

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Canadian province of Quebec reports first omicron case

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FRANCE SEES BIG JUMP IN CORONAVIRUS CASES

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AFRICA SHOULD NOT BE PENALIZED FOR IDENTIFYING AND SHARING CRUCIAL SCIENCE -UN CHIEF

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CHINA PLEDGES TO SUPPLY AFRICA WITH ANOTHER 1 BILLION DOSES OF COVID-19 VACCINE

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MOST PEOPLE IN HOSPITALS ARE UNVACCINATED, AS GAUTENG ENTERS THE 4TH WAVE

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Minister Zulu tests positive for COVID-19

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Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, on Monday received results confirming that she has tested positive for COVID-19.

The Minister’s positive result comes in the wake of the detection of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant, which the World Health Organisation has declared a “variant of concern”.

The Minister has immediately started isolating and recovering at home, where she will continue carrying out her duties without disruptions.

“It all started with a scratchy throat and I didn’t suspect anything, but when it persisted, I took the COVID-19 test yesterday and received the results this morning. I am feeling well and I can attribute this to the fact that the virus found me fully vaccinated,” the Minister said.

As the Vooma Vaccination Weekend (3-5 December) approaches, the Minister has called on South Africans to take the virus seriously and to follow COVID-19 protocols at all times by wearing a mask, washing and sanitizing hands and keeping a social distance.

“As the President emphasised last night, vaccination is the most powerful tool we have and it is not too late to get vaccinated before the fourth wave hits us hard,” Zulu said.

– SAnews.gov.za

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The AFP published its regular tally of coronavirus cases around the world, compiled from official sources.

According to the latest figures, coronavirus has killed at least 5,197,718 people since the outbreak began in China in December 2019. At least 260,817,750 coronavirus cases have been reported. On Sunday, there were 4,760 new deaths and 382,619 new cases reported worldwide.

According to the report, the World Health Organization estimates that the pandemic’s overall toll could be two to three times higher than official records due to excess mortality caused by Covid-19. Despite increased testing in many countries, a large number of less severe or asymptomatic cases go undetected.

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Poland announces restrictions

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Rwanda is the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to prohibit flights to southern Africa

– Rwanda’s government announced on Sunday that it would reduce inbound and outbound flights between the country and countries in southern Africa.

– All visitors will be quarantined for a day at their own expense in a designated hotel.

– Approximately 1.7 million people have been fully vaccinated in the country, with 90 percent of workers in Rwanda’s tourism sector fully vaccinated.

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DIRCO EXPECTS INDIA CRICKET TOUR TO SA TO GO AHEAD

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WESTERN COUNTRIES WOULD “WASTE” 100 MILLION VACCINES BY THE END OF THE YEAR- FORMER BRITISH PM GORDON BROWN

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Angela Merkel call for higher donations from member states to prevent pandemics

According to Reuters Angela Merkel of Germany said on Monday that she was addressing health ministers at the start of a WHO special assembly after its 194 member states reached a tentative agreement to negotiate a future agreement on pandemic prevention, bridging the gap between sides led by the European Union and the United States, diplomats said on Sunday.

“As we speak, the global community is faced with the threat of a new, highly transmissible variant of Covid-19, Omicron,” Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President, told the three-day talks that are expected to conclude on Wednesday with the adoption of the draft resolution on launching negotiations.

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South Africa preparing health facilities to cope with Omicron variant: Minister

South Africa’s government is doing everything possible to prepare its health facilities to cope with the newly identified Omicron variant, Health Minister Joe Phaahla told a news conference on Monday.

Phaahla added that officials were engaging with countries that imposed travel restrictions on southern African countries to try to get them to reverse them.

-Reuters

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Epidemiologist and member of the Africa Task Force for Coronavirus Prof Salim Abdool Karim reflects on the new variant

 Professor Salim Abdool Karim says travel bans by Western countries over the discovery of Omicron variant is ludicrous.

He says the variant is in other countries as well.

Speaking to Bongani Bingwa, Karim is weighing in on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement to leave the country at level 1 while urging everyone to get vaccinated.

To institute restriction against countries in Southern Africa, doesn’t make sense.

Professor Salim Abdool Karim, Epidemiologist and Member – Africa Task Force for Coronavirus

Karim adds that he disagrees with the president on allowing Matric Rage festivals to continue.

Listen below to the full conversation:

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“Stand together”: Prof Karim reacts to SA travel bans

Epidemiologist and member of the African Task Force for Coronavirus, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, said that the decision by several countries to “punish” South Africa over the detection of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant was ludicrous and did not make sense.

Karim said that this was supposed to be a time for the international world to stand together.

“Further, the way in which you deal with a pandemic is that you stand together against the virus. You don’t stand against each other, that’s not how you deal with a pandemic, that’s exactly the wrong steps that are being followed.”

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Omicron variant poses ‘very high’ global risk, mutations are ‘concerning’ -WHO

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In Scotland, six cases of Omicron variant have been detected

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‘I would expect that to rise’: UK Health minister on number of Omicron cases

“I’ll be honest, I would expect that to rise. We don’t know by what speed, or by what numbers. What we’re doing is trying to slow it down, but we can’t we can’t stop it. And we’re trying to give ourselves the time to understand how it works and how it interacts with the vaccine. But that’s why we’re putting in place these sensible precautionary measures to help slow it down”. Edward Argar told Sky news

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PCRs detect Omicron, studies underway for other tests: WHO

While PCR tests can detect infection with Omicron, studies are looking to whether the Covid-19 variant of concern has any impact on other test types, the WHO said Sunday.

“The widely-used PCR tests continue to detect infection, including infection with Omicron, as we have seen with other variants,” the World Health Organisation said in an update on what is known so far about the new variant.

“Studies are ongoing to determine whether there is any impact on other types of tests, including rapid antigen detection tests.”

The WHO on Friday declared Omicron, first detected earlier this month in southern Africa, to be a variant of concern.

The classification put Omicron into the most troubling category of Covid-19 variants, along with the globally dominant Delta, and its weaker rivals Alpha, Beta and Gamma.

Omicron spread across the globe on Sunday, shutting borders and renewing curbs as the EU chief said governments faced a “race against time” to understand the strain.

The variant has cast doubt on global efforts to battle the pandemic due to fears that it is highly infectious, forcing countries to reimpose measures many had hoped were a thing of the past.

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United States Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, has spoken with South African Minister of Health Joe Phaahla.

Becerra praised South Africa for its transparency in sharing information on the Omicron variant, a statement said.

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India announced that new travel rules

India has announced that new travel rules will come into effect from 1 December. A government statement says that in view of the development of the Omicron variant. Reuters report they say that all inbound travellers from “countries at risk” are to mandatorily undergo post-arrival testing. Additionally 5% of travellers coming from countries not in the “at risk” category will be tested on a random basis.

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Why we need to maintain a careful approach – Jacinda Ardern

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern says the Omicron variant demonstrates why the country will need public health measures into the future, as the country maintains its closed borders for the next two months, and prepares to shift into a new system of “traffic light” restrictions.

“Covid-19 is still with us, and the emergence of the Omicron variant overseas is a reminder of why we need to maintain a careful approach and keep public health measures in place to protect us,” Ardern said.

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“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 government said in a statement on Sunday, according to CBC.

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Japan is planning to close its borders to foreign visitors

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US and UK markets were poised for a stronger start to trading on Monday as investors prepared to wait to see if the Omicron variant would really derail economic recoveries, Reuters reports.

Oil prices bounced more than $3 a barrel to recoup a chunk of Friday’s shellacking.

Asian markets mostly closed with slim losses, while the S&P 500 futures added 1% and FTSE futures rose 1.3%.

So far, the Omicron strain has been detected in at least a dozen countries including Britain, Germany, France, Denmark, Israel, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia and South Africa.

No cases of the new variant have been confirmed in the US. The White House said president Joe Biden would “provide an update about the new variant and the US response on Monday”.

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European Commission President warns of global ‘race against time’ against Omicron

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Ghana to make vaccine mandatory for targeted groups from January

Ghana will ramp up its COVID-19 inoculation campaign next month and make the vaccine mandatory for targeted groups including all public sector and health workers from January 22, health service director general Patrick Kuma-Aboagye has said.

Ghana, like most African nations, has seen a sluggish uptake in COVID-19 vaccinations despite an increase in supplies. Only 1.4 million people out Ghana’s population of 30 million are fully vaccinated.

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Keep borders open as we tackle new variant: WHO

The head of the WHO in Africa has urged countries to follow the science rather than imposing flight bans in a bid to contain the new Omicron variant.

“With the Omicron variant now detected in several regions of the world, putting in place travel bans that target Africa attacks global solidarity,” said WHO regional director general Matshidiso Moeti.

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WHO says it is not yet clear if Omicron causes more severe disease

The WHO has said that it is not yet clear if the new variant is more transmissible compared to other SARS-CoV-2 variants or if it causes more severe disease.

“Preliminary data suggests that there are increasing rates of hospitalisation in South Africa, but this may be due to increasing overall numbers of people becoming infected, rather than a result of specific infection with Omicron,” it said.

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WHO reaches draft consensus on future pandemic treaty

Member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) have reached a tentative consensus to negotiate a future agreement on preventing pandemics, bridging the gap between sides led by the European Union and United States, diplomats have said.

The draft resolution, hammered out in negotiations over the weekend, will be presented for adoption to health ministers at the WHO’s three-day special assembly that opens on Monday, they said.

The diplomatic breakthrough came amid growing international concern over the Omicron variant.

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G-20 Health Ministers to convene an emergency meeting on Monday

G7 health ministers will hold an urgent meeting on Monday to discuss the Omicron variant.

The G7 is made up of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and US, and currently the UK holds presidency.

The meeting follows a flurry of positve Omicron test results in the UK, Germany and Italy, with the French health minister saying on Sunday the strain is likely circulating in France.

“Under the UK presidency an urgent meeting of G7 health ministers will also be convened on Monday November 29 to discuss the developments on Omicron,” the Department of Health and Social Care said on Sunday.

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RESTRICTIONS ON SOUTH AFRICA ARE COMPLETELY UNJUSTIFIED -PRESIDENT RAMAPHOSA

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Third case of Omicron Covid variant detected in Britain

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Denmarks registers its first two cases of Omicron variant as Germany confirms its third

Denmark has registered two cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant in travelers from South Africa, the country’s infectious disease authority said in a statement on Sunday.

“This was to be expected, and our strategy is therefore to continue intensive monitoring of the infection in the country,” Henrik Ullum, director of the State Serum Institute, said.

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Morocco suspends all international air travel into the country

Morocco is suspending all incoming air travel from around the world, starting on Monday, for two weeks because of the rapid spread of the new Omicron variant of coronavirus, the Foreign Ministry has announced.

The ministry tweeted that the decision was taken to “preserve the achievements realised by Morocco in the fight against the pandemic, and to protect the health of citizens”. It noted the spread of Omicron in Africa and Europe, AP reports.

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SA to remain on Level 1; govt moves to increase vaccinations

The government is proposing that the country remains on alert Level one, and if the Covid-19 infections increased, mandatory vaccination might be explored.

Well-placed insiders confirmed to News24 that part of the proposals included Covid-19 testing for travellers arriving in South Africa and better vaccination “mobilisation”, which could consist of more Vooma weekends – an initiative aimed at increasing vaccinations.

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Germany detects total three cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant

Germany said on Sunday it had detected a total of three cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant after a suspected infection in the western state of Hesse was confirmed.

“The sequencing has confirmed the result – the suspected case which was made public yesterday morning is the Omicron variant,” Kai Klose, social affairs minister in the state of Hesse tweeted.

On Saturday, he said a suspected Omicron case had been found in a passenger arriving from South Africa in Hesse, home to Frankfurt airport, one of Europe’s busiest air hubs.

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“Anything and everything”

Americans should be prepared to fight the spread of the new COVID-19 variant Omicron, according to a top US infectious disease official, but it’s too early to say what actions are needed, such as possible mandates or lockdowns.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Sunday that the United States must do “anything and everything” amid likely cases of the variant, but it is “too early to say” whether we need new lockdowns or mandates, Reuters reports.

Fauci told ABC News: “You want to be prepared to do anything and everything.”

He said it was possible that the new variant was already in the United States, although no official case has been confirmed.

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Dutch authorities confirm 13 Omicron cases and say there may be more

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Junior Hockey World Cup in SA put on hold

The FIH (International Hockey Federation) Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup South Africa 2021, scheduled for December in Potchefstroom, has been put on hold following the outbreak of a new Covid-19 Omicron variant in South Africa.

The decision was taken following a meeting of FIH, the South African Hockey Association and the North-West University. The 10-day event would have been the first hockey World Cup on African soil and was scheduled to start next Sunday.

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Angola closes its borders to regional neighbors due to Omicron

Angola has become the first southern African country to suspend flights from its regional neighbours in a bid to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, its national airline said.

A long list of countries have shut their borders to the region since South African scientists announced the new coronavirus variant last week.

Angola’s state-owned TAAG airline said it would suspend all flights to Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa from Sunday until further notice.

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International sport in Southern Africa grinds to a halt over Covid-19

International sport in Southern Africa effectively ground to a halt on Saturday as a result of travel bans caused by the new Omicron coronavirus variant.

The Joburg Open tournament, part of the new DP World Tour, was the only major event played – and that was severely curtailed.

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Covid-19: ‘No need to panic’ about Omicron variant, ‘symptoms are mild’ so far – SAMA board chair

I Choose #VacciNation - Dr. Angelique Coetzee - Chairperson, SAMA - SA Corona Virus Online Portal

As scientists race to decode the Omicron variant, a medical practitioner has urged the public not to panic, as patients so far had shown no severe symptoms, or the need for hospital treatment.

Dr Angelique Coetzee – who is also board chairperson of the SA Medical Association (SAMA) and in a private practice in Pretoria – said, although the situation might change, the symptoms had not been serious so far.

“This is not only my own account. I consulted with other doctors in Atteridgeville, Midrand and so on, and they’re seeing exactly what I am seeing. The symptoms are mild, and that’s the most important message,” she said.

SA Health Minister Joe Phaahla said the WHO was informed of the findings in the interest of transparency, adding that some reactions to the discovery, including travel bans, were unwarranted.

Department of International Relations and Cooperation spokesperson Clayson Monyela believes South Africa scientists must be applauded.

“Excellent science should be applauded and not punished. The global community needs collaboration and partnerships in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Israel Closes Borders To All Foreigners

Israel has announced that it will prohibit all foreigners from entering the country, making it the first government to do so in reaction to a new and potentially more contagious coronavirus type.

The prohibition, which is subject to government approval, will last 14 days, according to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

Officials expect to learn more about how effective COVID-19 vaccines are against Omicron during that time frame. Omicron was initially discovered in South Africa and is considered a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization.

The ban will come into effect at midnight on Sunday. A travel ban on foreigners coming from most African states was imposed on Friday.

Israel has recorded 1.3 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 8,000 fatalities since the pandemic began.

Saudi Arabia halts flights from additional African nations

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior has halted flights to and from Malawi, Zambia, Madagascar, Angola, Seychelles, Mauritius and the Comoros Islands owing to concerns related to the spread of the Omicron strain, state news agency SPA reported on Twitter.

Saudi Arabia on Friday suspended flights to and from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Eswatini.

Two cases of Omicron found in Australia