PARIS – Dutch health authorities announced on Tuesday that they had found a new Omicron variant of the coronavirus in cases dating back about 11 days, suggesting that it had spread in Western Europe before the cases. The first case was identified in southern Africa.
The RIVM Health Institute said it found Omicrons in samples dating to November 19 and 23. These findings precede positive cases found in passengers arriving from South Africa on Monday. Six weeks ago and tested at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.
Japan and France also confirmed their first cases of the new variant of the coronavirus on Tuesday as countries around the world scrambled to shut down or find ways to limit its spread while scientists study its harmfulness.
The World Health Organization has warned that the global risk from the Omicron variant is “very high” based on early evidence, saying it could lead to an increase with “serious consequences.”
French authorities on Tuesday confirmed the first case of the Omicron variant on the French territory of Reunion island in the Indian Ocean. Patrick Mavingui, a microbiologist at the island’s infectious diseases clinic, said the person who tested positive for the new variant was a 53-year-old man who had traveled to Mozambique and stopped. in South Africa before returning to Reunion.
The man has been placed in quarantine. He suffered from “muscle pain and fatigue,” Mavingui said, according to public television Reunion 1ere.
A day after banning all foreign visitors as an emergency precaution against this variant, Japan on Tuesday confirmed its first case, in a traveler who had traveled from Namibia. . A government spokesman said the patient, a man in his 30s, tested positive when he arrived at Narita airport on Sunday and was isolated and being treated at a hospital.
Cambodia banned visitors from 10 African countries from entering, citing the threat from the Omicron variant. The move comes just two weeks after Cambodia reopened its borders to fully vaccinated travelers.
The new version was first identified by researchers in South Africa a few days ago, but the Dutch case and other similar cases suggest it had been circulating several days before.
Authorities in the eastern German city of Leipzig said on Tuesday they had confirmed an infection with the Omicron variant in a 39-year-old man, who had never been abroad nor had any contact with anyone. anyone infected, dpa news agency reported. Leipzig, located in the eastern state of Saxony, currently has the highest overall rate of coronavirus infections in Germany.
The WHO says there are “significant uncertainties” about the Omicron variant. But it said preliminary evidence raises the possibility that the variant has mutations that could help it evade an immune system response and increase its ability to spread from person to person.
WHO stressed that while scientists are hunting for evidence to better understand this variant, countries should accelerate vaccination as quickly as possible.
Despite global anxiety, doctors in South Africa say patients have mostly had only mild symptoms so far. But they warn that it’s early. Additionally, most new cases are in people in their 20s and 30s, who don’t usually get sick from COVID-19 like older patients.