Omicron COVID variant was in Europe before South African scientists detected and flagged it to the world

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Dutch well being authorities introduced on Tuesday that they discovered the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus in circumstances courting again so long as 11 days, indicating that it was already spreading in western Europe before the first circumstances had been recognized in southern Africa. The RIVM well being institute stated it discovered Omicron in samples courting from November 19 and 23.

Those findings predate the optimistic circumstances discovered amongst passengers who got here from South Africa final Friday and had been examined at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.  

“It is not yet clear whether the people concerned [in the earlier cases] have also been to southern Africa,” the RIVM stated, including that the people had been knowledgeable of their Omicron infections and that native well being companies had began contact tracing.

People wait in entrance of an “Appointment Desk” for quarantine and coronavirus illness (COVID-19) take a look at appointments inside Schiphol Airport, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, November 27, 2021.

EVA PLEVIER/REUTERS

“In the coming period, various studies will be conducted into the distribution of the Omicron variant in the Netherlands,” the institute stated, noting that it would additionally re-examine extra samples from earlier COVID take a look at outcomes.

Belgium and Germany have additionally stated that pattern exams verify the variant was in these nations before South African well being officers alerted the world on November 24 to its existence.

South African scientists have been praised for first detecting the new variant and alerting international well being authorities to it final week. But Omicron has now unfold to about 20 different nations, and amid mounting concern that it may very well be considerably simpler to move from particular person to particular person, and that it may have at the least some resistance to present remedies and vaccines, many countries have imposed journey restrictions on passengers from southern African nations.

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South African politicians and scientists have stated they really feel as if they’re being punished for his or her superior COVID-19 screening program, which caught the variant and enabled different nations to reply shortly to it, however has resulted in the journey bans which largely goal southern African nations.

Japan and France confirmed their first circumstances of the new variant on Tuesday as nations round the world scrambled to shut their doorways, and scientists raced to take a look at current medication towards it.

It remained unclear on Tuesday whether or not the Omicron pressure makes folks extra severely sick than the already-well-known variants, however the World Health Organization has warned that the international threat it poses is “very high” based mostly on early proof.

WHO chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated it could lead on to surges round the world with “severe consequences.”

On Monday, President Biden and his prime medical coverage advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci stated the variant was not a trigger for panic, however that it was a trigger for concern. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has already taken motion, increasing its vaccine steering on Monday evening to advocate that every one U.S. adults get a booster shot.

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American epidemiologist Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, advised CBS News on Tuesday that the U.S. may very well be in for a tough winter if folks do not take that recommendation.

“People don’t realize we’re more susceptible today in this country as a whole because of the number of people who are now six, seven or eight months out who have not gotten their boosters and who are now starting to revert back to a much higher risk,” he stated.

Overnight, the CEO of vaccine maker Moderna was quoted as saying the current vaccines could also be considerably much less efficient towards Omicron, telling the Financial Times: “All the scientists I’ve talked to… are like, ‘this is not going to be good.’” 

But most scientists, together with the ones who developed the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine, have reserved judgement, pointing to the lack of clear data and urging folks to wait till present analysis yields actual knowledge from experiments on the variant. That’s anticipated to take up to two extra weeks.

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“Despite the appearance of new variants over the past year, vaccines have continued to provide very high levels of protection against severe disease and there is no evidence so far that Omicron is any different,” AstraZeneca stated in an announcement. “However, we have the necessary tools and processes in place for rapid development of an updated COVID-19 vaccine if it should be necessary.”

All the main Western vaccine makers, in addition to the producers of Russia’s home Sputnik vaccine, have stated they’re already engaged on, or prepared to work on, tailoring their formulation particularly for the new variant, if it ought to show obligatory.

Local and state officers in the U.S. and elsewhere, nevertheless, aren’t ready to discover out. In addition to the refrain of officers calling on folks to get their vaccines and booster pictures, some measures have been reinstituted round the world already.

New York City has issued new advisories recommending a return to masking indoors, and throughout England, masks had been once more obligatory in crowded or indoor public settings from Tuesday.

“We’re telling you to get those masks back on now,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio stated on Monday. “It’s smart to do.”

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