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World Hard-Hit Brazil Sees First Cases of Omicron Variant, Pair of Travelers From South Africa

03:55  01 december  2021
03:55  01 december  2021 Source:   newsweek.com

New COVID variant threat causes worldwide scramble

  New COVID variant threat causes worldwide scramble BRUSSELS (AP) — Nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is racing to contain a new coronavirus variant potentially more dangerous than the one that has fueled relentless waves of infection on nearly every continent. A World Health Organization panel named the variant “omicron” and classified it as a highly transmissible virus of concern, the same category that includes the predominant delta variant, which is still a scourge driving higher cases of sickness and death in Europe and parts of the United States.

Brazil, which has been hit hard with COVID, reported its first cases of the omicron variant in a pair of travelers that came from South Africa, according to the Associated Press.

The couple is the first confirmed cases of the omicron variant in Latin America and are currently in isolation, according to the Sao Paulo health secretariat. In this photo, a healthcare worker conducts a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID test on a traveller at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on November 27, 2021, after several countries banned flights from South Africa following the discovery of a new COVID variant Omicron. © Phill Magakoe/AFP via Getty Images The couple is the first confirmed cases of the omicron variant in Latin America and are currently in isolation, according to the Sao Paulo health secretariat. In this photo, a healthcare worker conducts a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID test on a traveller at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on November 27, 2021, after several countries banned flights from South Africa following the discovery of a new COVID variant Omicron.

These are the first confirmed cases of the omicron variant in Latin America, in a country with over 600,000 deaths related to COVID reported, a figure that analysts think is below the actual number.

International travelers to England must self-isolate until they test negative for COVID-19 after 2 cases of Omicron variant identified

  International travelers to England must self-isolate until they test negative for COVID-19 after 2 cases of Omicron variant identified Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced tighter travel restrictions for travelers entering England after the country detected cases of the Omicron variant.International travelers must take a day 2 PCR test and self-isolate until they get a negative result, ABC News reported. Face masks will also be required on public transportation and in stores.

The couple, a 41-year-old man and a 37-year-old woman, are in isolation, the Sao Paulo state health secretariat said. They had tests taken on November 25 and exhibited light symptoms of COVID at the time, the Associated Press reported.

The travelers, who live in South Africa, arrived in Brazil on November 23 and took a PCR test before they planned to return to South Africa two days later, according to the secretariat statement. The test results were collected at the Guarulhos international airport, outside of Sao Paulo, and came back positive.

"After the positive result, the couple was instructed to remain in isolation at home. Both are being monitored by state and municipal (authorities), as well as their respective family members," said the Sao Paulo health secretariat. The secretariat mentioned that the two haven't been registered in the state's vaccination platform.

In omicron hot spot, somber mood as S Africa faces variant

  In omicron hot spot, somber mood as S Africa faces variant PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — The overcast, drizzly skies match the somber mood at the Tshwane University of Technology, a hot spot in South Africa’s latest surge of COVID-19 cases, apparently driven by the new omicron variant that is leading countries around the world to impose new restrictions. After several students tested positive, the university postponed some exams, and officials in the larger metropolitan area of Tshwane, which includes the capital of Pretoria, are pushing vaccinations, especially among younger adults who have been slow to get the shots. At TUT, as the university is known, few students wanted to speak about the new variant that has cast a pall.

"An initial investigation did not identify them being vaccinated anywhere else," it said.

There is also another potential case of the omicron variant under investigation by Brazilian authorities since Sunday.

Brazil does not require COVID vaccination from foreign travelers entering the country.

Japan and France have also confirmed their first cases of the omicron variant Tuesday. There is also new evidence suggesting that the variant was in Europe almost a week before South Africa announced it on Wednesday, November 24, to the World Health Organization.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it can thwart the vaccine.

Brazil's health agency Anvisa said the entry took place before Sunday's federal government decision to block passengers arriving from South Africa. The South American country has blocked flights originating from or with stopovers in South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

The Latest: Local transmission of virus variant in Scotland

  The Latest: Local transmission of virus variant in Scotland LONDON -- Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said there is evidence of local transmission of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus after the country reported its first six cases. She told a news conference that not all the cases in Scotland had links to recent travel, adding that this suggests “there might already be some community transmission of this variant in Scotland.” The new cases takes the U.K.’s total to nine after three cases were identified in England over the weekend.The arrival of the variant on British shores prompted Prime Minister Boris Johnson to tighten restrictions on mask-wearing and testing of international arrivals to England.

Sao Paulo Governor João Doria said the state's COVID-19 scientific committee will reassess the end of the mask mandates, which was expected to come into force on December 11.

"We need to know the impact of this new variant" before deciding if removing masks is allowed outdoors, said Doria, who is also a presidential hopeful for next year's elections.

President Jair Bolsonaro, who has flouted health protocols since the beginning of the pandemic and remains unvaccinated, is insisting that social distancing policies should not be put back in place.

Many mayors of Brazilian cities are wondering whether they should keep scheduled end-of-year festivities and February's Carnival due to fears COVID-19 infection rates could soar again.

While Brazilian authorities have confirmed the first omicron variant cases in Latin America, they have also been investigating a possible third since Sunday. In this photo, a commuter wearing a facemask gets his COVID-19 vaccine at the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) Recreio station during the first day of no mandatory use of facemask outdoors in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on October 28, 2021. Mauro Pimentel/AFP via Getty Images © Mauro Pimentel/AFP via Getty Images While Brazilian authorities have confirmed the first omicron variant cases in Latin America, they have also been investigating a possible third since Sunday. In this photo, a commuter wearing a facemask gets his COVID-19 vaccine at the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) Recreio station during the first day of no mandatory use of facemask outdoors in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on October 28, 2021. Mauro Pimentel/AFP via Getty Images

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These are the states where the omicron variant has been identified .
The new omicron coronavirus variant has been found in 12 U.S. states just three days days after the first case in the country was announced. The new variant, which was first discovered in South Africa, was announced in late November and has already spread to dozens of countries across the world. One day after Thanksgiving, the Wold Health Organization (WHO) held an emergency meeting on the variant, which it has determined is a "variant ofThe new variant, which was first discovered in South Africa, was announced in late November and has already spread to dozens of countries across the world.

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