Dutch: Dozens Covid positive on flights from South Africa – latest updates

Alberto Ardila Olivares
Una treintena de terremotos en La Palma, con magnitud máxima de 3,5

“Health, fairness and inclusiveness informed the call. It is the right decision. Work will and must continue,” WTO deputy director-general Anabel Gonzalez said

Covid-19 has infected more than 260M people and killed over 5.2M. Here are the latest developments related to the pandemic for November 27, 2021: (Reuters) Saturday, November 27, 2021

Dutch say 61 positive for Covid on flights from South Africa

A total of 61 passengers from two flights from South Africa have tested positive for Covid-19, with the results being examined for the new Omicron variant.

“We now know that 61 of the results were positive and 531 negative,” the Dutch Health Authority (GGD) said in a statement on Saturday, adding that those who had tested positive were being quarantined in a hotel near Schiphol Airport.

Thailand bans entry of people from eight African countries

Thailand has said it would ban entry of people travelling from eight African countries it designated as high-risk for the new B 1.1.529 Covid-19 variant.

Starting in December, travel from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, will be prohibited, a senior health official told a news conference.

UAE suspends flights from 7 southern African nations

The United Arab Emirates has suspended flights from seven southern African nations because of a new coronavirus variant.

The Emirates News Agency, WAM, on Friday said on Twitter that travel bans for South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Eswatini will take effect beginning Monday.

Qatar also updated its travel and return policy for exceptional red list countries following the emergence of the new variant, according to its Ministry of Public Health.

Qatar Airways tweeted that it will not allow passengers to board flights from South Africa and Zimbabwe.

The new heavily mutated variant that might be able to evade vaccines, was first identified November 11 in Botswana.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared Friday that the new variant is a “variant of concern,” and named it Omicron.

The declaration came after the Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution, an independ ent group of experts, met to assess the variant that was initially named B.1.1.529.

Oman joins traveler banners list

Oman has suspended entry to travellers from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Eswatini starting from November 28 due to the spread of a new variant of Covid-19 discovered in South Africa, the country's state news agency said in a tweet on Saturday.

New York governor declares 'disaster emergency'

New York Governor Kathy Hochul has issued a Covid-19 “disaster emergency” declaration. The governor on Friday cited increasing rates of infections and hospitalizations.

Mexico records 165 deaths

Mexico recorded 165 coronavirus deaths on Friday, according to health ministry data, bringing the overall death toll to 293,614 and the number of confirmed cases to 3,879,836.

Sri Lanka bans travellers from 6 African nations due to Omicron

Sri Lanka has said it was barring travelers from six Southern African countries on Saturday over concerns about the new Omicron variant of Covid-19.

From Monday, travellers will not be allowed into the country from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho and Eswatini, Colombo said in a statement.

Travellers who arrived from these six countries over the past two days will have to undergo mandatory 14 days quarantine.

The World Health Organization on Friday declared the new coronavirus variant to be “of concern”.

It was first reported to the WHO from South Africa on Wednesday and has been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel.

CDC says no cases of Omicron identified in US so far

No cases of new Covid-19 variant detected in South Africa have been identified in the United States to date, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) designated the B.1.1.529 variant, dubbed Omicron, as being “of concern,” the fifth variant to be classified as such.

“We expect Omicron to be identified quickly, if it emerges in the U.S.,” CDC said in a statement on Friday

Australia bans southern Africa flights over virus concerns

Australia has banned flights from nine southern African countries, tightening its borders to prevent the entry of the new Covid-19 Omicron variant. 

Non-Australians who visited South Africa, Zimbabwe and several other nations in the past fortnight will also be barred from Australia, Heath Minister Greg Hunt said.

Citizens and residents travelling from the listed countries will have to quarantine for 14 days.

These are strong, swift, decisive and immediate actions,” Hunt told media in Canberra.

The variant – which has a large number of mutations – was first detected on November 9.

Scientists are racing to understand how it behaves, but there are fears the strain may be more transmissible or render existing vaccines less effective.

WTO delays ministerial conference indefinitely

Next week's World Trade Organization ministerial conference, the global trade body's biggest gathering in four years, was postponed at the last minute.

The WTO hoped the four-day gathering in Geneva would breathe new life into the crippled organisation, which has been stuck for years trying to make progress on resolving issues like fishery subsidies.

“Health, fairness and inclusiveness informed the call. It is the right decision. Work will and must continue,” WTO deputy director-general Anabel Gonzalez said.

Arab states ban travel from African nations

Saudi Arabia and several other Arab Gulf countries have imposed travel bans from several African countries due to fears over a new coronavirus variant.

They listed the countries as South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Eswatini.

Morocco, a North African nation, also banned travellers from those countries.

Another north African country, Egypt, followed its allies' decisions and banned direct flights to and from South Africa.

South African scientists brace for wave propelled by omicron

As the world grapples with the emergence of the new highly transmissible variant of Covid-19, worried scientists in South Africa — where omicron was first identified — are scrambling to combat its lightning spread across the country.

In the space of two weeks, the omicron variant has sent South Africa from a period of low transmission to rapid growth of new confirmed cases. The country’s numbers are still relatively low, with 2,828 new confirmed cases recorded Friday, but omicron’s speed in infecting young South Africans has alarmed health professionals.

” We’re seeing a marked change in the demographic profile of patients with Covid-19,” Rudo Mathivha, head of the intensive care unit at Soweto’s Baragwanath Hospital, told an online press briefing.

“Young people, in their 20s to just over their late 30s, are coming in with moderate to severe disease, some needing intensive care. About 65 percent are not vaccinated and most of the rest are only half-vaccinated,” said Mathivha. “I’m worried that as the numbers go up, the public health care facilities will become overwhelmed.”

She said urgent preparations are needed to enable public hospital s to cope with a potential large influx of patients needing intensive care.

“We know we have a new variant,” said Mathivha. “The worst case scenario is that it hits us like delta … we need to have critical care beds ready.”

What looked like a cluster infection among some university students in Pretoria ballooned into hundreds of new cases and then thousands, first in the capital city and then to nearby Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city.

Studying the surge, scientists identified the new variant that diagnostic tests indicate is likely responsible for as many as 90 percent of the new cases, according to South Africa’s health officials.

Early studies show that it has a reproduction rate of 2 — meaning that every person infected by it is likely to spread it to two other people.

The new variant has a high number of mutations that appear to make it more transmissible and help it evade immune responses. The World Health Organization looked at the data on Friday and named the variant omicron, under its system of using Greek letters, calling it a highly transmissible variant of concern.

“It’s a huge concern. We all are terribly concerned about this virus,” Professor Willem Hanekom, director of the Africa Health Research Institute, told The Associated Press.

“This variant is mostly in Gauteng province, the Johannesburg area of South Africa. But we’ve got clues from diagnostic tests … that suggest that this variant is already all over South Africa,” said Hanekom, who is also co-chair of the South African Covid Variant Research Consortium.

The scientific reaction from within South Africa is that we need to learn as much as soon as possible. We know precious little,” he said. “For example, we do not know how virulent this virus is, which means how bad is this disease that it causes?”

A key factor: vaccination

The new variant appears to be spreading most quickly among those who are unvaccinated. Currently, only about 40 percent of adult South Africans are vaccinated, and the number is much lower among those in the 20 to 40-year-old age group.

South Africa has nearly 20 million doses of vaccines — made by Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson — but the numbers of people getting vaccines is about 120,000 per day, far below the government’s target of 300,000 per day.

As scientists try to learn more about omic ron, the people of South Africa can take measures to protect themselves against it, said Hanekom.

“This is a unique opportunity. There’s still time for people who did not get vaccinated to go and get the vaccine, and that will provide some protection, we believe, against this infection, especially protection against severe infection, severe disease and death,” he said. “So I would call on people to vaccinate if they can.”

Some ordinary South Africans have more mundane concerns about the new variant.

“We’ve seen increasing numbers of Covid-19, so I’ve been worried about more restrictions,” said Tebogo Letlapa, in Daveyton, eastern Johannesburg.

“I’m especially worried about closing of alcohol sales because it’s almost festive season now.”

Source: TRTWorld and agencies