Sunday. 05.02.2023
CORONAVIRUS

Britain clamps down on travel as Omicron strain spreads to Europe

EU member states agreed to suspend passenger flights from seven southern African countries to contain a new, potentially more dangerous coronavirus variant
27 November 2021, United Kingdom, London: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson attends a media briefing in Downing Street on the latest updates regarding the coronavirus (Covid-19). Photo: Jeff Gilbert/The Daily Telegraph/PA Wire/dpa.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson attends a media briefing in Downing Street on the latest updates regarding the Covid-19. Photo: Jeff Gilbert/dpa.

Britain announced test and quarantine rules for all incoming travellers on Saturday following the arrival of the Omicron strain of the coronavirus to Europe.

"We will require anyone who enters the UK to take a PCR test by the end of the second day after their arrival, and to self-isolate until they have a negative result," Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a press conference in London.

Britain has confirmed two cases of the Omicron variant, which is feared to have higher re-infection rates.

On Friday, Belgium became the first European country to confirm that the strain, B.1.1.529, had reached its soil.

Germany also confirmed two cases on Saturday.

Two travellers had entered the country by plane from South Africa on November 24, Bavarian Health Minister Klaus Holetschek said.

The head of the Max von Pettenkofer-Institute in the state capital Munich said that genome-sequencing was yet to be completed. But it is "proven beyond doubt that it is this variant," Oliver Keppler said.

Meanwhile, a laboratory in Italy said on Saturday it had detected Omicron via genome-sequencing. The sample was being studied for further confirmation, the ISS public health institute said.

The sample came from a person from Mozambique, who had arrived in Milan by plane a few days ago, the ANSA news agency reported.

She and her family members, who live in the Campania region of southern Italy, are in good health, the ISS reported.

'Variant of concern'

Omicron has been classified as a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The European Centre for Disease Control has expressed serious concerns that the Omicron strain could significantly reduce the effectiveness of the available vaccines and increase the risk of reinfection.

In response to the news, EU member states agreed to suspend passenger flights from seven southern African countries to contain a new, potentially more dangerous coronavirus variant. Those countries are Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Swaziland.

Britain, which has also detected cases, has banned flights leaving from those nations.

The emergence of the new coronavirus variant is indicative of the lack of vaccines in many parts of the world, the Gavi Vaccine Alliance said on Saturday.

Unvaccinated

As long as large portions of the world's population remain unvaccinated, the virus could mutate, prolonging the pandemic, Gavi chief Seth Berkley said in Geneva.

"We will only be able to prevent the emergence of variants if we protect everyone in the world, not just the rich," he added.

Omicron was first discovered in November in South Africa, where the rate of fully vaccinated adults is lagging behind 36%.

In the European Union, by comparison, 77% of adults are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Gavi, a partnership between public and private donors, seeks to protect people in poorer countries from preventable diseases. It also leads the international Covax initiative to distribute Covid-19 vaccines to poorer nations.

Covax had hoped to deliver 2 billion doses this year, but has so far only achieved around a quarter of its goal.

Britain clamps down on travel as Omicron strain spreads to Europe
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