AS THE dust settles following the detection of the new Covid-19 Omicron variant in South Africa, Dutch officials stepped forward and said they’ve had Omicron cases 11 days prior to the South African alert.
Deutsche Welle, a German-based broadcaster, reported on Tuesday that the Dutch National Institute for Public Health said it found the new variant “in two test samples” dating back to November 19.
At least 13 more cases were detected following mass testing of two flights that had arrived from South Africa in which 61 people had tested positive for Covid-19.
“It is not yet clear whether the people concerned (in the earlier cases) have also been to southern Africa,” said officials who are now tracking around 5 000 other passengers who had recently travelled to southern Africa.
Director of the Department for Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine at Munich University Hospital, Michael Hoelscher, has said the number of cases of the Omicron variant is increasing across Europe and that the variant has already been there for a few weeks.
“What we are also seeing is that there are now first cases of community transmission, so it’s within Europe,” Hoelscher said.
“The travel bans will probably delay the spread of the disease a little bit but will not be able to hold it up,” he said.
According to Al Jazeera, at least 42 cases of Omicron have been confirmed in 10 European countries and it is still unclear from where the new variant originated.
Meanwhile, United States President Joe Biden has announced that lockdown is not needed and has urged citizens to get vaccinated.
According to the BBC, Biden said in a statement at the White House on Monday that there was no cause for concern or panic and that it was inevitable for the Omicron variant to reach the US.
While the US has imposed travel bans on South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, Namibia, Malawi and Eswatini last week, it has already detected the new variant in North America.
“We're going to fight and beat this new variant,” Biden said.
He said the travel ban allowed some time for its scientists to study Omicron and for pharmaceutical companies to make contingency plans for new jabs.
In Canada, officials reported a third case on Monday while Hong Kong confirmed its third case as well.
– African News Agency (ANA)