Written by PAN PYLAS Associated Press
The United Kingdom on Saturday tightened the rules for wearing masks and testing international arrivals after the discovery in South Africa of two cases of the new ommicron that could be more contagious than the coronavirus identified a few days ago.
Due to concerns that the new variant has the potential to better withstand the protection offered by vaccines, there are growing concerns around the world that the pandemic and associated lockdown restrictions will last much longer than expected.
In the nearly two years since the start of the pandemic that killed more than 5 million people around the world, countries have been on high alert. Many have already imposed travel restrictions from South Africa, wanting to save time to assess whether the omicron variant is more transferable than the currently prevailing delta variant.
In order to slow the spread of the virus in the UK, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was necessary to take “targeted preventive measures” after two people tested positive for the new strain in England.
“For now, this is the responsible way to slow the spread and spread of this new species and to strengthen our defenses,” he told a press conference.
Among the measures announced, Johnson said anyone arriving in England should undergo a PCR test for COVID-19 on the second day after arriving and self-isolate until they test negative. And if someone tests positive for the omicron variant, he said, loved ones will have to self-isolate for 10 days regardless of their vaccination status – close contacts are currently exempt from quarantine rules. ‘they are fully vaccinated.
He also said masks would be mandatory in shops and on public transport, and said the independent group of scientists advising the UK government on the rollout of coronavirus vaccines had been urged to speed up the vaccination program. This may include expanding the booster program to younger age groups, reducing the time between a second dose and a booster dose, and giving a second dose to older children.
“From today we will intensify the strengthening campaign,” he said.
The UK Department of Health said the two cases found in the UK were linked and linked to travel from South Africa. One of the two new cases was in the town of Brentwood in the south-east of England, while the other was in the central city of Nottingham. The two confirmed cases have been isolated from their families as contact tracing and targeted testing is underway.
The British government also added four more countries – Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia – to the country’s travel red list on Sunday. On Friday, six more countries were added, Botswana, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. This means that anyone who accesses from these destinations must be quarantined.
Several countries have placed restrictions on several South African countries in the past two days, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, the European Union, Iran, Japan, Thailand and the United States. United, in response to warnings about the portability of the new virus. This goes against the advice of the World Health Organization, which warned against overreacting before carefully studying the variant.
Despite the flight ban, there is growing concern that the alternative has already been widely adopted around the world. Besides the UK, cases have been reported in travelers to Belgium, Israel and Hong Kong.
The Dutch Institute of Public Health said the ommicron variant “may have been found in a number of people tested” who were isolated after arriving in Amsterdam on Friday on two flights from South Africa. The institute said in a statement that further analysis of the sequence is underway to confirm that this is the new variant. The result was expected Sunday. A total of 61 people were tested.
Germany also said it suspects three positive cases, while Italy is investigating the positive case of a person who recently returned from South Africa. Israel said it was following 800 travelers who had recently returned from South African countries.
The rapid spread of the variant among young South Africans has alarmed healthcare professionals, although there is no direct indication whether the variant causes more serious illness.
A number of pharmaceutical companies, including AstraZeneca, Moderna, Novavax and Pfizer, have said they plan to change their vaccines in light of the rise of Omicron. Pfizer and its partner BioNTech said they expect to be able to customize their vaccine in around 100 days.
Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, which developed the AstraZeneca vaccine, expressed cautious optimism that current vaccines might be effective in preventing serious diseases of the omicron variant, noting that most mutations appear to be in regions similar to those found in other variants.
“At least from a speculative point of view, we have some optimism that the vaccine should still work against a new variant of a dangerous disease, but in fact we have to wait several weeks to be sure,” he told BBC Radio.
The emergence of the variant, some experts say, has highlighted how the rich countries that make vaccines threaten to prolong the epidemic.
Less than 6% of Africans have been fully immunized against COVID-19 and millions of healthcare workers and vulnerable populations still have not received a single dose. These conditions can speed up the spread of the virus, giving it more opportunities to develop into a dangerous variant.
Professor Peter Openshaw said: “One of the key factors in the emergence of variants may be the low vaccination rates in some parts of the world and the warning from the World Health Organization that none of them we are not safe until we are all safe and accountable for it. “given.” Experimental medicine at Imperial College London.
Geir Molson in Berlin, Mike Corder in The Hague, The Netherlands, Colin Barry in Milan and Faris Akram in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, contributed to this report.
Follow the Associated Press’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic
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