LIVE | Covid-19: Australia detects first Omicron infections, US praises SA scientists | News24

LIVE | Covid-19: Australia detects first Omicron infections in two passengers who landed in Sydney

2021-11-28 11:23:00 AM

LIVE | Covid-19: Australia detects first Omicron infections in two passengers who landed in Sydney

More countries are imposing travel bans on South Africa following the detection of a highly mutated Covid-19 variant that has since been named Omicron.

International travellers to England must self-isolate after 2 cases of Omicron variant identified - Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced tighter travel restrictions in response to the new Covid-19 variant. - Two cases of the Omicron variant have been detected in the United Kingdom. 

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 - The Omicron variant carries a concerning number of mutations that could make it more transmissible.1h agoAustralia detects first Covid-19 Omicron infectionsSydney – Health officials on Sunday said they had detected the Covid-19 Omicron strain in Australia for the first time, in two passengers who were tested after flying into Sydney from southern Africa.

The eastern state of New South Wales' health authority said it had conducted urgent genomic testing and confirmed the new strain was present in the two people who landed in Sydney on Saturday.Both passengers came from southern Africa and arrived in Australia on a Qatar Airways flight via Doha, NSW Health said in a statement.

They tested positive for Covid-19 shortly after arriving, leading to an urgent analysis for possible infection by the heavily mutated Omicron strain."The two positive cases, who were asymptomatic, are in isolation in the special health accommodation. Both people are fully vaccinated," NSW Health said.

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Another 12 passengers from southern Africa on the same flight did not test positive for Covid-19, but had been placed in quarantine, it said.About 260 passengers and crew on the plane have also been told to isolate, the health authority said.The plane with the infected passengers landed on the same day that Australia announced it was banning flights from nine southern African countries, including South Africa and Zimbabwe.

The World Health Organisation has listed Omicron as a variant of concern and said it could take several weeks to know if there are significant changes in transmissibility, severity, or implications for Covid-19 vaccines, tests and treatments. - AFP

2h agoCovid-19: In swipe at China, US praises SA scientists for 'quick identification' of OmicronWashington – The United States praised South Africa on Saturday for quickly identifying the new Covid-19 strain called Omicron and sharing this information with the world – a barely veiled slap at China's handling of the original outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with SA's International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor, and they discussed cooperation on vaccinating people in Africa against Covid-19, the State Department said.3h agoHospital confirms first Czech case of new Covid-19 strain

Prague – The regional hospital in the northern Czech city of Liberec confirmed the new Omicron strain of Covid-19 in a female patient, its spokesperson Vaclav Ricar told Czech Television on Saturday."My colleagues from the department of genetics and molecular diagnostics confirmed the strain with 90% probability after a sequence analysis," said Ricar.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said earlier on Saturday that the woman had been in Namibia and flew back to the Czech Republic via South Africa and Dubai."Given where the patient came from and all the circumstances, we can confirm the strain has been confirmed," added Ricar. He said the sample would now be analysed by the national reference laboratory.

"But the result is already very precise," Ricar said.Babis said the woman was vaccinated and had mild symptoms of the disease.The Czech Republic, an EU member of 10.7 million people, is currently grappling with a spike in Covid-19 infections making it one of the worst-hit countries in the world in terms of infections per capita.

On Thursday, it registered a record-high daily growth of 27 717 new cases.Overall, the Czech Republic has seen more than 2.1 million confirmed Covid-19 cases and 32 744 deaths.EU officials agreed on Friday to urge all 27 nations in the bloc to restrict travel from several southern African nations.

The Czech Republic already imposed restrictions on travel from the region on Friday. - AFP3h agoSwitzerland adds Britain, Netherlands, three others to quarantine listZURICH – Switzerland on Saturday widened quarantine requirements to stem the spread of the new Omicron coronavirus variant to travellers arriving from Britain, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Egypt and Malawi, where cases have been detected, its health ministry said.

On Friday, Switzerland banned direct flights from South Africa and the surrounding region due to the detection of a new Covid-19 variant, while also imposing restrictions on travel from other countries including Hong Kong, Israel and Belgium.Entry from those countries would only be possible for Swiss citizens, or those with a residence permit in Switzerland or the broader Schengen area.

Now, following the detection of new Omicron cases, travellers from Britain, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Egypt and Malawi will need to present a negative Covid-19 test and quarantine for 10 days as well, the Federal Office of Public Health said in a tweet.

It did not state whether travel from those countries would be limited to Swiss citizens and residents or not.Two cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant have also been detected in the southern German state of Bavaria and in Italy, both neighbours of Switzerland, but Switzerland has thus far not imposed travel restrictions on any countries with which it shares borders.

 - REUTERS3h agoBrazil reports 229 new Covid-19 deathsSAO PAULO – Brazil reported 229 new Covid-19 deaths and 9 233 additional confirmed coronavirus cases, according to data released by the Health Ministry on Saturday.In total, Brazil has registered 614 186 deaths due to Covid-19, the world's second highest death toll behind the United States.

 - REUTERS Mexico records 245 coronavirus deaths and 2 956 additional casesMONTERREY – Mexico recorded 245 coronavirus deaths on Saturday and an additional 2 956 confirmed cases, according to Health Ministry data, bringing the overall death toll to 293 859 and the number of cases to 3 882 792.

 - REUTERS27 November 20:36Omicron coronavirus case detected in Italy - health instituteA case of the new coronavirus variant Omicron has been detected in Italy, the National Health Institute (ISS) said on Saturday.The genome was sequenced at the Laboratory of Clinical Microbiology, Virology and Bioemergency Diagnostics of the Sacco Hospital in Milan from a positive sample of a patient coming from Mozambique.

The patient and his family contacts were in good health, the ISS said, adding that the sequence of the sample,"attributable to the one now known as variant of concern (VOC) and defined yesterday by WHO as"Omicron", was in the process of further confirmation.

- Reuters 27 November 20:15UK takes new measures to slow Omicron coronavirus variantBritain announced new measures on Saturday to try to slow the spread of the newly identified Omicron coronavirus variant and a top health official said there was a"reasonable chance" that vaccines could be less effective against it.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said arrivals from all countries would have to self-isolate until receiving a negative result from a PCR test, that face masks must be worn in retail settings and it was time to step up booster jabs."We need to buy time for our scientists to understand exactly what we are dealing with," he told a news conference.

Johnson said those who had come into contact with people testing positive for a suspected case of Omicron would have to self-isolate for 10 days and that face masks must be worn in shops and on public transport but not restaurants and pubs in England.

England's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty told the same news conference there was a reasonable chance that the newly identified variant could be less easy to tackle with vaccines."There is a reasonable chance that at least there will be some degree of vaccine escape with this variant," he said.

Health minister Sajid Javid confirmed earlier on Saturday the first two cases of the new variant in Britain, saying they were linked to each other and connected to travel to southern Africa.The two individuals and all members of their households were being re-tested and told to self-isolate while further testing and contact tracing was done.

England will also add Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola to its travel"red list" from 04:00 on Sunday, meaning British and Irish residents who arrive in the country must quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days. Non-residents will be refused entry.

That list already contained Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.- Reuters27 November 20:12US issues 'Do Not Travel' advisory for eight African countriesThe US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and State Department on Saturday advised against travel to eight southern African countries after the White House announced new travel restrictions in response to a new Covid-19 variant.

The CDC raised its travel recommendation to"Level Four: Very High" for South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi, Lesotho, Eswatini and Botswana while the State Department issued parallel"Do Not Travel" advisories Saturday.

On Monday, the CDC had lowered its Covid-19 travel advisory for South Africa to"Level 1: Low."

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