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New COVID variant detected in South Africa



(Last Updated On: November 26, 2021)

Britain on Thursday said it was concerned by a newly identified coronavirus variant spreading in South Africa that might make vaccines less effective and imperil efforts to fight the pandemic. Flora Bradley-Watson reports.

The UK on Thursday banned flights from six southern African countries due to a new coronavirus variant spreading there, Reuters reported.

According to the report the new variant, called B.1.1.529, has alarmed global health officials as it appears to be more transmissible and may evade vaccines.

That’s because its spike protein is dramatically different to the one in the original coronavirus that the COVID-19 vaccines are based on.

Britain’s health secretary said it was important to act fast:

“We will be suspending all flights from six southern African countries and we will adding those countries to the travel red list. Those countries are South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini and Zimbabwe and Botswana. And we will be requiring anyone that arrives from those countries from 4am on Sunday to quarantine in hotels.”

“Our scientists are deeply concerned about this variant. I’m concerned, of course, and that’s one of the reasons we’ve taken this action today.”

Earlier on Thursday, South African scientists said they had detected the new COVID-19 variant in small numbers and were working to understand its potential implications.

The variant has also been found in Botswana and Hong Kong, but the UK Health Security Agency said no cases of it had been detected in Britain, read the report.

The World Health Organization is holding an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss the new variant.


Beijing orders travellers to take COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival in city – state media



(Last Updated On: January 16, 2022)

Chinese travellers into Beijing from Jan. 22 to end-March are required to take a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of their arrival in the city, Beijing Daily, a government newspaper reported on Sunday.=

China has reported local cases of the highly transmissible Omicron variant in at least five provinces and municipalities, including a first infection in Beijing itself on Saturday, just weeks ahead of the Olympic Winter Games in February, Reuters reported.

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Omicron less severe than Delta but still poses danger for unvaccinated: WHO



(Last Updated On: January 13, 2022)

The highly infectious Omicron coronavirus variant causes less severe disease than the Delta strain but it remains a “dangerous virus”, particularly for those who are unvaccinated, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a news briefing, director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said more than 90 countries were yet to meet the target of vaccinating 40% of their populations and more than 85% of people in Africa were yet to receive a single dose, Reuters reported.

“We mustn’t allow this virus a free ride or wave the white flag, especially when so many people around the globe remain unvaccinated,” he said.

In its weekly epidemiological report on Tuesday, the WHO said cases increased by 55%, or 15 million, in the week to Jan. 9 from a week earlier – by far the most cases reported in a single week, read the report.

“This huge spike in infections is being driven by the Omicron variant, which is rapidly replacing Delta in almost all countries,” Tedros said.

He said the majority of people hospitalized around the world with COVID-19 were unvaccinated and that if transmission was not curtailed there was greater risk of another variant emerging that could be even more transmissible, and more deadly, than Omicron.

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Omicron expected to infect more than half people in Europe in 2 months: WHO official



(Last Updated On: January 12, 2022)

More than half of people in the entire European region will be infected with the Omicron strain within two months if the current rate of transmission continues, said a World Health Organization (WHO) official on Tuesday.

Since the beginning of the new year, the pandemic situation in many European countries has been severe. In countries including France and Denmark, the number of newly confirmed COVID19 cases in a single day has reached a new high since the onset of the pandemic. As the number of hospitalized cases and deaths continue to rise, some countries are tightening their pandemic control policies.

WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge said at a press conference on Tuesday that in the first week of 2022, more than seven million cases were reported in Europe, which doubled the data two weeks ago. Kluge said that it is estimated that at the current rate of transmission, more than 50 percent of people in the entire European region will be infected with the Omicron strain in the next six to eight weeks.

Kluge said that the Omicron strain is super contagious compared with the previous variants, and its scope of spreading is unprecedented. He also emphasized the importance of vaccines in preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death.

WHO officials said on Tuesday that in view of the uncertainty of the Omicron strain at this stage and the rapid development of the pandemic, the WHO opposes responding to the COVID19 pandemic in the same way as dealing with influenza.

The WHO Regional Office for Europe covers 53 countries, including European and some neighboring countries. Omicron strains have been found in at least 50 of these countries.

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