Covid-19: Omicron was in Europe before southern Africa travel bans

The knee-jerk reaction followed news that variant has an unusually high number of mutations, which scientists fear could make it more contagious and lead to immune evasion.

Much is still unknown about Omicron, including its origin, severity, and transmissibility. Researchers are also racing to discover if it can replace existing variants and become dominant, as Delta has done.

Israel’s Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said: “Early indications” that people who have received a booster vaccine of the coronavirus are “protected” against the new variant, Israel’s Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said today. Tuesday.

This happened after anecdotal reports from South Africa suggested which most The cases of the Omicron variant so far are mild. But those South African cases “are mostly [among] young people. So I’ll say we don’t know [if the new variant causes more serious illness than previous strains]”, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told CNN Sunday.

Scientists say it will take weeks to discover just how dangerous the new variant is. But we do know that Omicron has been found in Europe, with cases of community transmission identified in previous Covid-19 samples before the travel ban took effect.

Dutch health officials on Tuesday said Omicron was in the Netherlands a week before two flights arrived from South Africa carrying the virus. RIVM virologist Chantal Reusken told national broadcaster NOS that at least one of the cases is believed to have been contracted in the Netherlands.

The nine cases of Omicron are linked to a separate event on 20 November in Scotland, days before South Africa announced the existence of the variant. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday that none of the individuals had recent travel history or known links to others who had traveled from southern Africa. .

These cases have led some to question the need for tiered travel restrictions, which has sparked outrage across the African continent. Many see the ban as another example of Africans bearing the brunt of hasty pandemic policymaking, which has seen rich countries hoard vaccine doses and resources. beg to harm poorer nations.

“Science excellence should be applauded and not punished,” South Africa’s foreign ministry said on Saturday, adding that the restrictions were “like punishing South Africa for its advanced genetic sequencing and ability to new variants faster.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) Africa Regional Director Matshidiso Moeti said: say the next day. “Covid-19 is constantly exploiting our parts. We will only improve the virus if we work together to find solutions.”


Q: What caused scientists to warn about Omicron, compared to other variants?

A: In the case of Omicron, what initially caused alarm among doctors and scientists in South Africa was the rapid spread of this new variant, according to CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen.

“It seems to be outperforming Delta in speed, but whether it can knock Delta out and become the dominant one remains to be seen,” she said.

“In addition, the large number of mutations of this variant – over 50 mutations – raises questions about immunity’s ability to escape, both for vaccines and for treatments such as monoclonal antibodies. are the kinds of information that we will need to gather through further scientific studies,” she added.

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Scientists say it will take weeks to find out how dangerous Omicrons really are. This is why

Shortly after South Africa announced the spread of a new and troubling variant last week, scientists got in on the action. By the time the WHO named the new lineage Omicron, several groups of researchers had cloned the work from South Africa and mapped out the genetic changes that made Omicron the bad agent of the new coronavirus family, Maggie Fox reports.

While many of those mutations are familiar to other variants, scientists are still unsure if they make Omicron significantly different from earlier variants – especially the super-dominant Delta variant. .

But it will take weeks of testing to find out what superpowers are added, if any, to these mutations that produce Omicron. Researchers have to see what’s going on in the real world by testing samples from patients, sequencing their genomes to see if Omicrons are causing the infections, and seeing if more samples are Omicron or not.

They will also explore whether Omicron infection leads to more severe disease and if fully vaccinated people are more likely to be infected with the Omicron variant than other strains.

Mandatory use of the Covid-19 vaccine was once unthinkable. European countries are showing it can work

Earlier this month, Austria took an unthinkable step towards a Western democracy: It announced that Covid-19 vaccination would become mandatory for all citizens.

Until then, governments around the world have rejected the idea of ​​mandatory universal use of a coronavirus vaccine, opting instead for incentives and other “incentives” to promote everyone. injector. Even in authoritarian countries, like China, it is not mandatory.

Now, other European countries are starting to consider similarly drastic measures to persuade more people to get vaccinated, despite criticism that low vaccination rates make them impractical and will depriving millions of people of their livelihoods, Eliza Mackintosh reports.

FDA advisors vote to recommend Merck authorization to treat Covid-19

Because of concerns about the type of Omicron variant binding, U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisors voted to recommend emergency use of the drug manufactured by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. to help treat Covid-19.

A narrow 13-10 vote approved the treatment, called molnupiravir, although members of the committee expressed concern about the risks to pregnant women and some said they hoped Merck would was asked to continue to collect safety data on this drug.

If licensed, the drug would be the first oral antiviral treatment to combat Covid-19. It can reduce the relative risk someone will develop serious illness or die by about 30%. The medicine must be taken within five days of the onset of symptoms to be effective, and people must take four tablets twice a day for five days.


There is a new variant circulating. Here’s what you can do to stay safe

As the world waits to learn more about the Omicron variant, it’s easy to get caught up in the unknown. Instead, health officials are reminding us of the simple but effective tools we all have to fight the virus.


Czech President Milos Zeman officially appointed Petr Fiala as the country's new Prime Minister on Sunday while sitting in an acrylic glass case after testing positive for coronavirus earlier last week.


How do you treat an illness of unknown cause and each patient’s symptoms are unique? CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks with pain expert Dr. Carmen Green about what causes chronic pain, how it can be treated, and which patients are most likely to get it. more care. Listen to me.


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