World on alert as UK reports cases of omicron COVID variant

A sign reading 'Stay safe' in Regent Street, in London, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. A slew of nations moved to stop air travel from southern Africa on Friday, and stocks plunged in Asia and Europe in reaction to news of a new, potentially more transmissib
Image Icon
The Associated PressA sign reading ‘Stay safe’ in Regent Street, in London, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. A slew of nations moved to stop air travel from southern Africa on Friday, and stocks plunged in Asia and Europe in reaction to news of a new, potentially more transmissible COVID-19 variant. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

LONDON — Britain became the latest country Saturday to report cases of the new potentially more contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus as world governments sought to shore up their defenses by slapping restrictions on travel from nations in southern Africa.

U.K. Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed that two people have tested positive with the omicron variant in the southeastern English town of Chelmsford and in the central city of Nottingham. He said the cases were linked and related to travel from southern Africa.

Javid said the two confirmed cases are self-isolating alongside their households while contact tracing and targeted testing takes place. He also said arrivals from Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia will have to quarantine from Sunday and stressed the importance of booster jabs.

“This is a real reminder that this pandemic is far from over,” he said. “If we need to take further action, we will.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, along with his top advisers, will be holding a media briefing later Saturday.

Many countries have slapped restrictions on various African countries over the past couple of days including Australia, Brazil, Canada, the European Union, Iran, Japan, Thailand and the United States, in response to warnings over the transmissability of the new variant — against the advice of the World Health Organization. Pharmaceutical companies expressed optimism that they could finesse their vaccines to deal with the new variant though that would clearly take some time.

Despite the banning of flights, there are mounting concerns that the variant has already been widely seeded around the world. In addition to the U.K, cases have been reported in travelers in Belgium, Israel and Hong Kong. Germany also said it suspected a positive case and Dutch authorities were testing whether 61 people who arrived on two flights from South Africa with COVID-19 have the omicron variant.

The planes arrived in the Netherlands from Johannesburg and Cape Town shortly after the Dutch government imposed a ban on flights from southern African nations. The 539 travelers who tested negative were allowed to return home or continue their journeys to other countries. Under government regulations, those who live in the Netherlands and are allowed to return home must self-isolate for at least five days.

Meanwhile, a German official said that there’s a “very high probability” that the omicron variant has already arrived in the country.

Kai Klose, the health minister for Hesse state, which includes Frankfurt, said in a tweet that “several mutations typical of omicron” were found Friday night in a traveler returning from South Africa, who was isolated at home. Sequencing of the test had yet to be completed.

The global health body has named the new variant omicron, labeling it a variant of concern because of its high number of mutations and some early evidence that it carries a higher degree of infection than other variants. That means people who contracted COVID-19 and recovered could be subject to catching it again. It could take weeks to know if current vaccines are less effective against it.

With so much uncertainty about the omicron variant and scientists unlikely to flesh out their findings for a few weeks, countries around the world have been taking a safety-first approach, in the knowledge that previous outbreaks of the pandemic have been partly fueled by lax border policies.

Nearly two years on since the start of the pandemic that has claimed more than 5 million lives around the world, countries are on high alert.

The variant’s swift spread among young people in South Africa has alarmed health professionals even though there was no immediate indication whether the variant causes more severe disease. In just two weeks, omicron has turned a period of low transmission in the country into one of rapid growth.

A number of pharmaceutical firms, including AstraZeneca, Moderna, Novavax and Pfizer, said they have plans in place to adapt their vaccines in light of the emergence of omicron. Pfizer and its partner BioNTech said they expect to be able to tweak their vaccine in around 100 days.

Professor Andrew Pollard, the director of the Oxford Vaccine Group which developed the AstraZeneca vaccine, expressed cautious optimism that existing vaccines could be effective at preventing serious disease from the omicron variant.

He said most of the mutations appear to be in similar regions as those in other variants.

“That tells you that despite those mutations existing in other variants the vaccines have continued to prevent serious disease as we’ve moved through alpha, beta, gamma and delta,” he told BBC radio. “At least from a speculative point of view we have some optimism that the vaccine should still work against a new variant for serious disease but really we need to wait several weeks to have that confirmed.”

He added that it is “extremely unlikely that a reboot of a pandemic in a vaccinated population like we saw last year is going to happen.”

Some experts said the variant’s emergence illustrated how rich countries’ hoarding of vaccines threatens to prolong the pandemic.

Fewer than 6% of people in Africa have been fully immunized against COVID-19, and millions of health workers and vulnerable populations have yet to receive a single dose. Those conditions can speed up spread of the virus, offering more opportunities for it to evolve into a dangerous variant.

“One of the key factors to emergence of variants may well be low vaccination rates in parts of the world, and the WHO warning that none of us is safe until all of us are safe and should be heeded,” said Peter Openshaw, a professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London.

“Global vaccine rollout is vital,” he added.

———

Pan Pylas contributed from London. Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.

News Related

OTHER NEWS

Genshin Impact: “Wondrous Shadows” Event Quest Guide

© Provided by GamePur Wondrous Shadows is a mini-event currently live in Genshin Impact as part of the Lantern Rite Festival. The event will run until February 12, and players ... Read more »

UAE summons people for sharing videos of missile attack interception

DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates public prosecutors’ office said on Wednesday it had summoned several people for sharing videos showing defence systems intercepting Monday’s missile attack https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/uaes-defense-ministry-destroyed-2-houthi-ballistic-missiles-wam-2022-01-24/?enowpopup by ... Read more »

Bridgerton's Phoebe Dynevor reveals the exact lip liner she wore on the show (and loves in real life)

We have all fallen in love with Bridgerton, especially Phoebe Dynevor who played Daphne Bridgerton in the Netflix series.  The fresh-faced actor boasted glowing skin in the series, and even ... Read more »

Jury played 15-minute audio clip of fatal attack on psychiatrist in Cardiff park

The jury in the trial of two men and a teenage girl accused of murdering a “well-loved” father-of-two have been played a 15-minute audio clip of the fatal attack. Dr ... Read more »

Medvedev fights back from brink to set up Tsitsipas showdown

© Associated Press Daniil Medvedev saved a match point and recovered from two sets down to defeat Felix Auger-Aliassime in a four-hour plus epic at the Australian Open Daniil Medvedev ... Read more »

Wall Street opens higher ahead of Fed announcement

Wall Street’s main indexes opened higher on Wednesday after two sessions of turbulent trading, supported by a stellar outlook from Microsoft and ahead of a Federal Reserve policy meeting announcement ... Read more »

V5 dealt first loss of the split by Weibo Gaming's Huanfeng

© Provided by Dot Esports Victory Five have been handed their first loss of the 2022 LPL Spring Split to Weibo Gaming, after a competitive three-game series between the two ... Read more »

Trade Setup: Nifty may see further pullback but index not out of woods yet

Indian equities halted their five-day corrective decline on Tuesday as benchmark indices staged a strong pullback while ending with gains. Nifty50 opened weakly and traded over 250-odd points down in ... Read more »

PM Modi to virtually host first India-Central Asia Summit on Thursday

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will host the first India-Central Asia Summit in a virtual format on Thursday during which the leaders are expected to deliberate on steps to take forward ... Read more »

Kelly Ripa cheers on son Joaquin in heartwarming show of support – and she's such a proud mom!

Kelly Ripa is enjoying some quality time in Michigan, where her youngest son Joaquin is studying. MORE: Kelly Ripa receives ‘best gift ever’ from oldest son Michael And the Live ... Read more »

Republic Day 2022: Sachin Tendulkar bats for 'Right to Play' - WATCH

© Provided by Zee News On the occasion of the 73rd Republic Day of India, former cricketer Sachin Tendulkar spoke about the importance of playing of sports and discusses ‘Right ... Read more »

Rowntree has 'huge plans' for Knox and Salanoa as he urges Munster young guns to seize chance

© Dan Sheridan INPHO Graham Rowntree at Munster training. MUNSTER FORWARDS COACH Graham Rowntree says it’s up to the young guys who are going to see action during the Six ... Read more »

World Cup plans can help African migrants avoid ‘death in the sea', Gianni Infantino claims

© PA Archive FIFA president Gianni Infantino made bizarre remarks about Africans risking death by migrating to Europe in a speech on Wednesday (Nick Potts/PA) – PA Archive Fifa president ... Read more »

England suffer more Six Nations hurt as giant Jonny Hill 'likely to miss' opening rounds

Eddie Jones ‘ streak of bad luck has continued after it emerged British and Irish Lions lock Jonny Hill looks likely to miss the early rounds of England ‘s Six ... Read more »

Partygate vs. Cash for Honours: the Johnson and Blair rows compared

© Dan Kitwood/Getty Images Tony Blair Dan Kitwood/Getty Images Boris Johnson could become the first PM to be questioned by police since Tony Blair in 2006 The Scotland Yard investigation ... Read more »

LOITV details revealed for 2022 season with service set for major price increase due to controversial change

LOITV will return for the upcoming 2022 League of Ireland season but the streaming service is set for some major changes. The website, along with its predecessor WatchLOI, provided supporters ... Read more »

Jack Clarke ‘can't wait to get started' after Tottenham loan exit

© Getty Images JackClarke2601 Tottenham have allowed Jack Clarke to join Sunderland on loan for the rest of the season. While still only 21, the former Leeds United youngster has ... Read more »

The Devastating Death Of Peter Robbins, The Voice Of Charlie Brown

Valerie Macon/Getty Images The following article includes mentions of suicide and addiction. Peter Robbins, actor and beloved voice of “Peanuts” character Charlie Brown, died last week at 65 years old, ... Read more »

Weekly Covid cases fall another 13% as Omicron deaths have peaked

COVID cases in the UK fell 13 per cent last week, compared to the seven days before. Infections in the country dropped from around 3.4million to 2.9million in the week ... Read more »

1 body found in Coast Guard search for 38 lost off Florida

MIAMI (AP) — The U.S. Coast Guard said Wednesday that its crews recovered one body and continue to search for 38 other people in the ocean off Florida days after ... Read more »

Chinese teen ‘abandoned twice' by birth parents dies by suicide: reports

Liu Xuezhou, 17, died of an overdose of anti-depressants. Weibo A Chinese teen sold as an infant has died by suicide after a social media search reunited him with his ... Read more »

Russia warns of retaliation if security demands not met during Ukraine crisis

Russia threatened Wednesday to take “retaliatory measures” if the US and its allies ​reject Russian President Vladimir Putin’s security demands — ratcheting up already high tensions between Washington and Moscow ... Read more »

Priya Ahuja Rajda: I have performed at the Republic Day parade at India Gate

© Provided by Mid-Day As India celebrates its 73rd Republic Day today, Priya Ahuja Rajda joins mid-day.com for a special conversation. What are your thoughts and memories of Republic Day?  ... Read more »

Mouni Roy 'Shakes it like Shammi' with boyfriend Suraj Nambiar at her Mehendi ceremony; WATCH

Mouni Roy and Suraj Nambiar’s pre-wedding ceremonies have begun in full swing. Pictures from their Haldi and Mehendi ceremonies have been doing the rounds on the internet today. All their ... Read more »

Prabhu Deva's 58th film, an action entertainer, is titled 'Rekla'

© IANS Prabhu Dev’s 58th film titled ‘Rekla’. Chennai, Jan 26 (IANS) Director Anbu’s upcoming Tamil action entertainer, featuring actor Prabhu Deva in the lead, has been titled ‘Rekla’. Actor ... Read more »

Kylie Jenner having another girl? Kendall Jenner & Khloé Kardashian SPOTTED buying pink dolls in LA

© Provided by Pinkvilla Sisters Khloé Kardashian and Kendall Jenner may have seemingly revealed the gender of Kylie Jenner’s impending 2nd baby! While the sisters were out shopping in California, ... Read more »

'Fight Club' gets new ending in China which shows authorities come just in time

© IANS ‘Fight Club’ gets new ending in China which shows authorities come just in time. New Delhi, Jan 26 (IANS) More than two decades after its release, cult film ... Read more »

Desi bride is kaam se pareshaan on her wedding day. Hilarious viral video has 5 million views

Desi bride is kaam se pareshaan on her wedding day. (Image courtesy: Instagram) Even on her wedding day, this desi bride is flooded with work. A video that has gone ... Read more »

Oldest District Six land claimant Aunty Shariefa Khan dies before finally getting chance to move back home

The 100-year-old passed away on Wednesday morning with her wish of returning to her once-beloved community left unfulfilled. © Copyright (c) Daily Maverick , All Rights Reserved Shariefa Khan, a ... Read more »

From the archives: Begum Akhtar, queen of melody

© Provided by India Today Music can be a powerful form of communication. And Begum Akhtar, in my opinion, was one of the first effective communicators. Sixty years ago, she ... Read more »

'Encanto' star John Leguizamo says he has avoided the sun in order to stay 'light-skinned' for roles

© Provided by INSIDER John Leguizamo. Chelsea Guglielmino / Getty Images “Encanto” star John Leguizamo spoke to the Academy Awards’ “Seen” series about colorism in Hollywood. Leguizamo said that he ... Read more »

Ahead of Shehnaaz Gill's birthday, 'Shehnaaz Sirf Meri Hai' trends on Twitter; here's why

© Provided by BollywoodLife.com Bigg Boss 13 contestant Shehnaaz Gill has a huge fan following. The actress will celebrate her 29th birthday tomorrow (27th January), and her fans are already ... Read more »

I named my son using the first 11 letters of the alphabet in order… and I've got his Covid passport to prove it

A DAD has reportedly given his son a name that encompasses the first 11 letters of the alphabet in order. The Indonesian family named their 12-year-old son ABCDEF GHIJK Zuzu ... Read more »

My kids have to wear dressing gowns, woolly hats and mittens all day to keep warm in our freezing flat

MUMS are putting kids in dressing gowns, mittens, and woolly hats to stay warm after cladding was removed from their tower block.  Families say energy bills have soared and now ... Read more »

Syria: US-backed forces take control of prison attacked by IS militants

There has been no update yet on the 850 children and minors who lived alongside the nearly 5,000 prisoners in the overcrowded jail. Read more »

The 25 most successful English clubs ever as Liverpool could tie Man Utd with Carabao Cup win

Liverpool have the chance to win their first silverware of the 2021/22 season next month. The Reds will play Chelsea in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley on February 27. ... Read more »

Resilient Dunoon matrics notch up distinctions against the toughest odds

Distinctions pile up for learners of crowded Cape Town informal settlement. © Copyright (c) Daily Maverick , All Rights Reserved Twenty-year-old Ephraim Simango had to study between midnight and 6am ... Read more »

Robin Roberts returns virtually to host GMA after COVID diagnosis

Robin Roberts gave fans a reason to rejoice when she revealed that she was finally back on Good Morning America, but not in the way you’d expect. MORE: Robin Roberts reveals she’s ... Read more »

The Jimmy Garoppolo trade narrative has completely changed for 49ers

Everything is coming up 49ers these days – especially when it comes to their quarterback. San Francisco is gearing up to play in the NFC Championship Game this Sunday against ... Read more »

Matthew Stafford's wife Kelly isn't sure why Ndamukong Suh hates him

Kelly Stafford doesn’t know why the Buccaneers’ Ndamukong Suh has beef with her husband. While discussing Sunday’s Divisional Round win against the Buccaneers on her podcast, “The Morning After with ... Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic