HomeTravelat least 20 countries, territories record cases
at least 20 countries, territories record cases
November 30, 2021
At least 20 countries and territories now have confirmed cases of the new Omicron variant — including even a tiny French island in the Indian Ocean.
One person has tested positive on the island of La Reunion and six of his contacts are being tested, the government said Tuesday, according to Reuters.
The 53-year-old man had traveled to Mozambique and made a stopover in South Africa, where the new variant was first detected, before returning to La Reunion about two weeks ago, disease researcher Dr. Patrick Mavingui said.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said the discovery of the patient, a Namibian diplomat in his 30s who arrived at Narita Airport in Tokyo, showed that border controls had worked.
The diplomat had been vaccinated against COVID-19, though the type of vaccine wasn’t yet known, Health Minister Shigeyuki Goto told reporters.
On Monday, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced that Japan would shut its borders to foreigners for a month to prevent the spread of Omicron — joining Israel and Morocco in imposing some of the strictest border controls since the variant’s discovery in southern Africa.
The measure, which took effect Tuesday, was generally welcomed by the public and tolerated by business leaders.
“It’s better this way for elderly citizens,” said Tokiko Amemiya, an 80-year-old retiree.
Omicron was confirmed for the first time in Latin America on Tuesday, as well, with Brazilian health officials announcing that a married couple contracted the variant.
The husband landed in Sao Paulo from South Africa with a negative COVID-19 test Nov. 23, the country’s health regulator Anvisa said.
But before a planned return trip, the couple took COVID-19 tests that confirmed the presence of the variant through lab analysis.
Meanwhile, in the UK, the total number of Omicron cases jumped to 22 on Tuesday, with Scotland recording nine of the cases, CNN reported.
“The individuals that have tested positive, and their contacts are all isolating. Work is under way to identify any links to travel to Southern Africa,” a rep with the UK Health Security Agency told the outlet.
Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf told “Good Morning Scotland” that the government is working to “accelerate [the vaccination program] as quickly as we possibly can.”
He urged citizens to take the variant “seriously,” adding that “we don’t really yet know whether it causes worse disease.”
In Australia, a sixth case of the variant was reported in a fully vaccinated traveler who recently arrived in the state of New South Wales from Qatar, according to CNN.
The patient, who flew from Doha to Sydney on Thursday, had previously been in southern Africa, according to NSW Health.
Two people who had been on the same flight also have been confirmed to have COVID-19, but genomic testing was still under way to determine if they have the new variant, officials said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical adviser, said Tuesday that least 20 countries and territories have confirmed cases of the new variant — a list that includes Spain and Austria, both of which reported their first cases.
“Confirmed cases as of yesterday were 205 in 18 countries, and just this morning, that’s gone up to 226 in 20 countries — and I think you’re going to expect to see those numbers change rapidly,” Fauci said at a COVID-19 press briefing.
Germany confirmed its first infection with no overseas travel history, CNN reported.
Two more cases of the variant were recorded in the Netherlands from testing samples taken on Nov. 19 and Nov. 24, health officials said.
The new cases indicated that Omicron had been circulating in the region for nearly a week before South Africa first alerted the world to the variant on Nov. 26.
No cases have been detected in the US, but health officials said that they have expanded surveillance at airports to keep an eye out for the variant.
“CDC is evaluating how to make international travel as safe as possible, including critical partner testing closer to the time of flights and considerations around additional post arrival testing and self-quarantine,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told reporters.
“Currently, the CDC is expanding a surveillance program with XpresCheck to JFK, San Francisco, Newark and Atlanta airports – four of the busiest international airports in the country. This program allows for increased COVID testing for specific international arrivals, increasing our capacity to identify those with COVID-19 on arrival to the United States and enhancing our surveillance for the Omicron variant,” she added.
At least 70 countries and territories also have imposed travel restrictions in response to the rapid spread of the variant, including the United States and Canada, CNN said.