MOSCOW, November 28. /TASS/. The omicron variant of the novel coronavirus, found in several African countries earlier this week, has already been detected in Israel, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Belgium, as well as in Hong Kong. The authorities of the Czech Republic and Germany suspect the new strain in some of their citizens, who recently arrived from Egypt and South Africa.
TASS gathered the main information about how the new strain of the virus is spreading and what measures have been taken to contain it.
- For the first time, the B.1.1.529 variant appeared in databases on November 11. The first case was registered in Botswana, with reports of more cases coming shortly after from South Africa and several other African states. By now, the majority of cases are reported by the health authorities of South Africa.
- On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) designated the B.1.1.529 variant as a "Variant of Concern" and assigned it the Greek letter Omicron. It also said that the new variant has "a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning." "Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs," it said.
Air service suspended
- A number of countries suspended air service with South Africa and several other states in the southern African region as a precaution, including the United Kingdom, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Spain, Egypt, the Philippines and Saudi Arabia. The reports prompted Argentina to postpone its planned resumption of air service with Africa.
- In turn, Russia restricted entry for foreigners arriving from several countries in the south of Africa from November 28 due to the new strain of SARS-CoV-2. The restrictions will apply to residents of South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Madagascar, Eswatini and Tanzania. Russian citizens arriving from a number of southern African states, as well as China, Israel and the United Kingdom, will have to undergo express testing for the novel coronavirus.
- Entry of foreigners from several African countries was also prohibited by the governments of Thailand, Bahrain, South Korea, Australia, Croatia, Guatemala, Japan, Singapore, Italy, Hungary, Morocco, Turkey, Canada, the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Cyprus and Malaysia.
- EU countries supported the European Commission’s proposal to prohibit entry of South African citizens.
- The Czech Republic closed its borders for foreigners, who visited one of eight African countries within two weeks before their planned arrival.
- Israel and Malaysia prohibited their residents from visiting Africa’s south.
- Japanese citizens and foreigners with long-term Japanese visas or residence permits, who are entering the country from the territory of South Africa, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, will be obliged to spend ten days in quarantine in special hotels. People arriving to South Korea from southern African countries will also have to spend ten days in quarantine and pass three PCR tests during this period. Greece has also announced a similar ten-day quarantine.
- Those travelling to Romania and Georgia from the territories hit by the new strain will be quarantined for 14 days.