THE HAGUE (Netherlands) -- The Netherlands confirmed 13 cases and Australia two on Sunday of the new coronavirus variant. The countries that are half a world apart were the latest to identify it among travelers from southern Africa.
As nations attempt to stop the spread of the variant, a number of restrictions are being implemented around the globe. Israel's decision to ban foreign nationals from entering its territory on Sunday was the most difficult.
Confirmed and suspected cases of the new variant have been reported in many European countries, Israel, Hong Kong, and Israel, only days after it was first identified by South African researchers. Nearly two years after the pandemic which claimed more than 5,000,000 lives, disrupted economies and killed over 5 million, the "act first, ask the questions later" approach was adopted to reflect growing concern about the possibility of a more contagious variant.
Researchers are still unsure about the new variant. However, they fear that it could be more resistant than the vaccines provide and that this could lead to a pandemic that lasts longer than expected.
According to the Dutch public health authority, 13 South Africans who arrived Friday from South Africa have tested positive for the virus. These were among the 61 people who had tested positive for the virus on Friday after they arrived at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam. While sequencing was being done, they were immediately placed in isolation at a nearby hotel.
Officials in Australia announced that two foreign travelers from Africa arrived in Sydney and became the first to test positive for the Omicron variant. All visitors from nine African countries must now quarantine in a hotel after they arrive. Over the weekend, three cases were reported by two German states.
Israel moved in order to prohibit foreigners from entering and to impose quarantine on all Israelis who arrive from abroad.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett stated that "Restrictions to the country's border is not an easy step but it's temporary and necessary step," at the beginning of the weekly Cabinet meeting.
Dr. Ran Balicer, the head of the government’s advisory panel on COVID-19 said that new measures were needed to combat the "fogof war" around the new variant. He stated that it was better to act quickly and strictly to stop its spread.
Hugo de Jonge, Dutch Health Minister, said that he had asked his country's national public health institute whether additional travel restrictions were necessary. However, he stated that he would like to coordinate with European Union counterparts as "these are steps that we will need to take together."
Many countries have banned or restricted travel from certain southern African countries, including New Zealand, Thailand and Indonesia. Brazil, Canada and the EU have already imposed restrictions on travel from Iran, Brazil, Canada, and the U.S. This is contrary to the World Health Organization's advice, which warns against overreacting before the variant has been thoroughly examined.
"While we recognize the rights of all countries to take precautionary measures to protect their citizens," Naledi Pandor, minister of international relations, stated in a statement.
Dr. Anthony Fauci of the United States, the top expert in infectious diseases, stated that he wouldn't be surprised if there was an omicron variant already present in the country, even though it hasn’t been found.
Officials in Europe were also on alert, as many countries have been facing severe problems with an increase in the number of cases in recent weeks.
After finding two cases of omicrons, the U.K. tightened its rules regarding mask-wearing and testing international arrivals. Spain has announced that it will not accept British tourists who haven't been vaccinated beginning Dec. 1.
It was reviewing the lists of passengers who had flown to Italy in the last two weeks following the positive test for omicron by a Mozambican business traveler. He arrived in Rome on November 11 and returned to Mozambique. Alessio Da'Amato, the top health official in Lazio, stated that "controls at ports, airports and train stations were strengthened."
Olivier Veran, French Minister of Health, stated that while there are no confirmed cases yet in his country, it is "probable that there are currently cases in circulation."
Although it's not yet clear how vaccines will work against the Omicron variant of the disease, Veran stated that France hasn't changed its strategy to combat the new surge in infections caused by the Delta variant. This strategy focuses on increasing vaccinations as well as boosters.
David Hui is a Hong Kong-based expert in respiratory medicine and government advisor on the pandemic. He said that although it's not certain if the current coronavirus vaccines will be effective against the new variant of the virus, it was important to increase the city's vaccination rates and implement booster doses as soon as possible.
He stated that two of the people who had tested positive for the Omicron variant had received BioNTech-Pfizer shots and were showing mild symptoms such as a sore throat.
He stated that vaccines must work, but they would have a reduction in effectiveness.Updated Date: 28 November 2021, 14:53