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New Covid-19 variant Omicron cases, travel updates from around the world

Fauci: Omicron variant almost invariably will spread all over
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What we're covering

  • The US, European Union and other major destinations have moved to block flights from several African countries following the discovery of a new, potentially more transmissible variant of Covid-19.
  • The WHO labeled the newly discovered strain as a “variant of concern.” The B.1.1.529 variant was first detected in South Africa.

Our live coverage has ended for the day. Read more on the variant below and its impact on travel here.

26 Posts

Taiwan tightens border controls on six African countries due to new Omicron variant 

Taiwan has announced tighter border controls due to the new Covid-19 variant Omicron, the island’s Central Epidemic Command Centre (CECC) announced Friday.

South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Zimbabwe have been added to its list of “high-risk countries” beginning Monday, November 29, the government said.

Passengers who have traveled to or transited through these six countries in the past 14 days will have to undergo 14 days quarantine at a government quarantine facility and Covid-19 testing.

Flight crew members of Taiwanese airlines returning from or who have transited through high-risk countries will also be required to undergo quarantine in a designated hotel or a company dormitory for 14 days. 

Taiwan’s CECC classifies the new variant as “highly transmissible” and states the new measures aim to “reduce of the risk of the variant entering the community.”

Hong Kong tightens border restrictions for eight African countries due to new Omicron variant 

Hong Kong became the latest destination to tighten border restrictions on people arriving from eight southern African countries in response to the new Omicron variant, the government announced on Saturday. 

Hong Kong residents arriving from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe will have to spend seven days in a government quarantine facility where they will undergo daily Covid-19 testing and be monitored by health professionals. 

Upon completion of the seven days, residents will be allowed to finish the rest of their compulsory quarantine at a designated quarantine hotel. 

They are also required to undergo regular Covid-19 testing after arrival in Hong Kong.

Non-Hong Kong residents who have visited any of the eight southern African countries within 21 days are no longer allowed to enter Hong Kong as of Saturday. Non-residents traveling from South Africa were already barred entry due to its status as a high-risk country.

“The new rule aims to enhance the surveillance on the Omicron variant of Covid-19,” the government said in a press release. “Hong Kong must stay vigilant and implement the most stringent anti-epidemic measures to prevent the mutant strain from entering the local community.”

Dutch police arrest couple who fled from Covid hotel after traveling to South Africa 

Travelers are seen at an appointment desk for quarantine and coronavirus testing at the Schiphol Airport on November 28, in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Dutch police said on Sunday they arrested a couple on a plane after they “fled” from a hotel where passengers from South Africa who have tested positive for Covid-19 are being quarantined.

Dutch military police at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport “arrested a couple this evening who had fled from a quarantine hotel,” police spokesman Stan Verberkt told CNN.

The couple – a Spanish citizen and a Portuguese national – were arrested on a plane that was about to take off en route to Spain at 6 p.m. local time (12 p.m. ET), Verberkt said.

They are not in custody but are being quarantined at another facility, Verberkt said, adding the prosecutor will decide in the next few days if they will be charged.

Public health authority (GGD) spokesperson Stefanie van Waardenburg said the couple was among the passengers on a flight that landed at Schiphol from Johannesburg on Friday.

Some of the passengers on that flight tested positive for the new Covid-19 variant Omicron, Waardenburg said. The arrested couple did not test positive for the Omicron variant.

The Netherlands is among a growing number of countries that have imposed a flight ban on the southern African region.

Woman charged with arson after quarantine hotel fire

A 31-year-old woman has been charged with arson after allegedly lighting fire beneath a bed at a quarantine hotel in Cairns, in the Australian state of Queensland.

The woman had been at the Pacific Hotel for a couple of days, Queensland Police said, before she allegedly set fire to the room where was staying with two children early Sunday morning.

More than 160 guests were evacuated from the building as flames took hold of the upper floors. No one was injured, but police said the hotel suffered “significant damage.”

As of Sunday, none of the guests had tested positive for Covid-19, according to state health officials.

In Queensland, new arrivals from designated Covid-19 hotspots are required to spend 14 days in quarantine. Some are allowed to quarantine at home, if they meet strict requirements, including having a place to stay that doesn’t have shared access.

Omicron symptoms were mild, doctor who treated small number of patients in South Africa says

A South African doctor who was among the first in the country to suspect a new Covid-19 variant was making people sick says the cases she has treated so far have been mild.

 “It started with a younger generation of 40 and less, and the most predominant clinical complaint is severe fatigue for one or two days, with then the headache and the body aches and pain,” Dr. Angelique Coetzee, a private practitioner and chair of South African Medical Association, told Reuters.

“Some of them will have what they call a scratch throat, and some will have a cough, a dry cough. But it’s not a constant cough. It comes and goes. And that’s more or less the big symptoms that we have seen.”

Coetzee said she and her colleagues have not treated anyone requiring oxygen, but some have had had high temperatures, including one who was a severely ill child who had a fast pulse.

The child was treated at home and was feeling better after about 48 hours.

Appearing on CBS on Sunday, former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb noted health officials do not know if the variant will cause more severe outcomes. 

“Is this making people more ill? There’s no indication that it is. And in fact, there’s some anecdotal information offered from physicians in South Africa that this could be causing milder illness. Now that could be an artifact of the fact that initial cases seem to be clustered in younger people, perhaps in outbreaks around universities,” Gottlieb told CBS News on Sunday.

CNN has reached out to Coetzee for additional comment. 

Japan tightens border controls on three more African countries

Japan has added Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia to its list of tighter border controls in response to the new Covid-19 variant Omicron,

It brings the total number of countries subject to entry restrictions in Japan to nine, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Saturday. 

Measures against these three countries came into place on Sunday, a day after tighter border controls were put in place for people arriving from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Lesotho.

Travelers arriving from the nine countries, including Japanese nationals, are required to undergo a 10-day quarantine at government-designated facilities. 

In addition, Covid-19 tests will be conducted on the third, sixth and 10th days from entry. 

“The government is facing a strong sense of crisis regarding the discovery of mutant (coronavirus) strains,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters on Saturday. “We will take measures toward border control.”

Canada confirms first two cases of Omicron Covid-19 variant

Passengers arriving on international flights go through Covid-19 testing at Toronto Pearson International Airport, on September 28.

Canadian health officials confirmed the country’s first two cases of the Omicron Covid-19 variant in Ottawa on Sunday. 

Both individuals carrying the coronavirus variant had recently traveled from Nigeria, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said in a joint statement

Both individuals are in isolation, and Canadian health officials are conducting contact tracing management, the statement reads. 

“The best defense against the Omicron variant is stopping it at our border,” the joint statement reads. “We continue to urge the federal government to take the necessary steps to mandate point-of-arrival testing for all travellers irrespective of where they’re coming from to further protect against the spread of this new variant.”

Canadian Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos issued travel restrictions for anyone who has traveled through southern Africa in the last 14 days on Friday.

Here's how health officials are testing to see if Omicron is resistant to current Covid-19 vaccines

The United States will know in about two weeks whether the Omicron variant is resistant to current Covid-19 vaccines, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical officer.

He outlined the steps that are being taken to make a determination.

“The way you find that out is you get the virus, and you put it either as the whole virus or as what we call a pseudovirus, and you take antibodies or serum from people who’ve been vaccinated and you determine if those antibodies can neutralize the virus,” Fauci told ABC News on Sunday. “That whole process is already underway right now, and hopefully we’ll be able to determine.”

Speaking on NBC News on Sunday, Fauci said if the tests show antibodies from a person who has been vaccinated can neutralize the virus, then “we’re in pretty good shape.”

“If it looks like even at a high titer of antibody it doesn’t, then what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to change and modify what the vaccine is going to be, which you can do pretty easily,” Fauci said.

UK government tightens restrictions on travel and masks over Omicron variant concerns

Passengers wear face masks as they travel on the London underground on Sunday, November 28.

Face coverings will be mandatory in United Kingdom shops and on public transportation, and all travelers returning to the UK will require PCR testing starting at 11 p.m. ET Monday, the UK Department of Health and Social Care said Sunday in a statement.

These “temporary and precautionary measures” are to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 Omicron variant in the UK, the government said. It comes as the UK has detected three cases of this new variant, it announced Sunday.

An urgent meeting with the G7 health ministers will also be convened on Nov. 29 to discuss the developments on Omicron, the statement adds.

Separately, the Department of Education has told schools in England that pupils and visitors in secondary schools and above should wear masks in communal areas, though this is not considered a law, a department’s press officer told CNN. These measures start Monday.

Moderna chief medical officer says Omicron-specific vaccine booster is being developed if needed

Moderna’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Paul Burton has predicted a “couple of weeks of uncertainty” with the emergence of the Omicron Covid-19 variant, and he said the company would be able to move “very fast” in producing a variant-specific vaccine.

“There are three questions we really need answers to: How transmissible is this variant, how severe is it and will the antibodies that are produced in response to the current vaccines effective?” he told CNN.

Moderna said Friday that the new Omicron variant represents a “significant potential risk” to the efficacy of its Covid-19 vaccine as well as immunity reached naturally, due to its mutations.

Burton said everyone who hasn’t been vaccinated in the US should get their shots now, and those who have been vaccinated should get booster shots.

Moderna has been testing variant-specific boosters over the summer, Burton said, and the company is already working on one for the Omicron variant.

“We can move very fast, we think weeks to within two to three months, we would be able to have an Omicron-specific vaccine booster available for testing and then for administration. So this is going to go at the fastest possible speed. But we have to do careful science now. We don’t want to misstep,” he said.

Burton said he expects Covid-19 to be an “endemic disease that will need regular boosting.”

Omicron is “a new wrench thrown” into the fight against Covid-19, he said

“We have to see what data comes out in the next couple weeks,” Burton added.

When asked about vaccine inequity, Burton said Moderna is producing 110 million doses for African nations through the World Health Organization’s vaccine-sharing program COVAX, adding “we’re trying to do everything we can to balance where the burden of disease is.”

South African president says he is "deeply disappointed" in Omicron travel bans

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks to press on November 23, in Pretoria, South Africa.

In an address to the nation on Sunday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa criticized a growing list of countries that have instituted travel bans against South Africa and its neighbors over the emerging Omicron variant of Covid-19.

“We are deeply disappointed by the decision of several countries to prohibit travel from a number of southern African countries including our own following the identification of the Omicron variant. This is a clear and completely unjustified departure from the commitment that many of these countries made at that meeting of the G20 countries in Rome last month,” Ramaphosa said.

Ramaphosa went on to list the countries and territories by name and called on the travel restrictions to be lifted. 

“These restrictions are completely unjustified and unfairly discriminate against our country and our southern African sister countries. The prohibition of travel is not informed by science, nor will it be effective in preventing the spread of this variant. The only thing the prohibition on travel will do is to further damage the economies of the affected countries and undermine their ability to respond to and also to recover from the pandemic,” he said.

Ramaphosa praised the country’s scientists for their early detection of the variant and their work in understanding its potential impact.

He said that the Omicron variant is responsible for most of the infections found in the Gauteng province over the last two weeks and is now appearing in other provinces. He confirmed that the country is seeing a sharp rise in infections.

“If cases continue to climb, we can expect to enter a fourth wave of infections within the next few weeks, if not sooner,” he said. 

Some context: South African scientists have long believed a fourth wave was on the way in South Africa during this time, something Ramaphosa reiterated.

“This should not come as a surprise,” he said.

Ramaphosa encouraged South Africans to get vaccinated and said that the government is exploring vaccine mandates to accelerate vaccine uptake. Currently, around 35% of the population is vaccinated in South Africa. He said that the country will remain at coronavirus Level 1, one of the country’s lowest levels.

“The coronavirus will be with us for the long term. We must therefore find ways of managing the pandemic while limiting disruptions to the economy and ensuring continuity,” he said.

Omicron variant is a "clarion call" for Covid-19 vaccine boosters, US health officials say

Safeway pharmacist Ashley McGee fills a syringe with a Pfizer COVID-19 booster vaccination at a clinic on October 1, in San Rafael, California.

As global health officials evaluate the level of impact the new Omicron variant could have on the pandemic, they say its emergence is a “clarion call” for booster shots of the Covid-19 vaccine.

“Based on what we’ve learned so far with Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta, the vaccines, which are generated against the original virus, still work, and the boosters work particularly well. This is an important point. For people who are listening, who haven’t yet gotten boosted but did get their original vaccine and who are eligible now, this is another reason to do that now. Because the booster, it basically enlarges the capacity to recognize all kinds of different spike proteins it’s never seen,” Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told CNN on Sunday.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, explained why getting a booster will be helpful against the Omicron variant.

“When you have a high level of antibodies the way you get with the boosters that we’ve been doing lately in this country and elsewhere, you lift up the level of the neutralizing antibodies high enough that it generally crosses over and covers several of the variants, including the Delta variant, which makes us even more emphatic in saying, even with a variant that we don’t know yet the full impact that it’s going to have on protection against vaccine-induced antibodies, get boosted, get vaccinated, and you’re going to bring that level right up. I don’t think there’s any possibility that this could completely evade any protection by the vaccine. It may diminish it a bit, but that’s the reason why you boost,” Fauci told ABC News on Sunday.

Fauci said the Omicron variant should be a clarion call for vaccination.

“This is a clarion call as far as I’m concerned of saying let’s put aside all of these differences that we have, and say, if you’re not vaccinated, get vaccinated. If you’re fully vaccinated, get boosted,” Fauci told NBC News on Sunday.

Israel bans all foreigners from entering the country in response to Omicron fears

Travelers walk with their luggage in the Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, on November 28.

Israel is banning all foreigners from entering the country in response to Omicron fears, authorities announced Saturday.

The ban, pending government approval, is expected to last two weeks. Israelis returning from a country on the red list, which includes countries in southern Africa, will be required to isolate for seven days in a designated hotel.

There are seven suspected cases of the variant in Israel, in addition to one confirmed case found in a person returning from Malawi, its Health Ministry said.

Biden will receive in-person Covid-19 briefing today

President Biden, first lady Jill Biden and their children and grandchildren have boarded Air Force One in Nantucket, ending their Thanksgiving vacation. 

Biden returns to the Capitol where he will receive a briefing on Covid-19 and the Omicron variant this afternoon.

“This afternoon, the President will have an in-person briefing with members of his Covid-19 response team and chief medical advisor to the President Dr. Fauci to provide an update on the Omicron variant and the administration’s response,” a White House official said.

This Welsh rugby team was unable to depart South Africa following one suspected Omicron case

Cardiff Rugby has been unable to depart South Africa following two positive cases of Covid-19, one of which is suspected to be the new Omicron variant, the team said Sunday in a statement.

The Welsh team had hoped to leave Cape Town on Sunday afternoon, but due to the two positive results of the PCR tests undertaken Saturday night, “the entire travelling party have returned to their hotel to isolate,” the statement read.

CNN has reached out to Cardiff Rugby for clarity on the suspected case.

Omicron Covid-19 variant prompts these countries to impose travel restrictions

A passenger walks through the arrivals area at Heathrow Airport on November 26 in London.

The discovery of a new Covid-19 variant first detected in South Africa prompted multiple countries to impose travel restrictions on at least six African nations

The newly identified variant appears to be spreading rapidly in parts of South Africa, and scientists are concerned that its unusually high number of mutations could make it more transmissible and result in immune evasion.

The World Health Organization classified it as a “variant of concern” on Friday. 

These are the countries that have announced restrictions so far:

  • The cascade of closures began late Thursday as the United Kingdom announced it would be temporarily suspending flights from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini.
  • Israel on Saturday announced it is barring foreigners from entering the country for two weeks.
  • Japan has tightened border controls for travelers from the same six countries, bringing in a 10-day quarantine that began at 12 a.m. on Nov. 27. Bahrain and Sri Lanka said they would suspend entry from those countries as well. Brazil said it will close its air borders with the six countries.
  • Pakistan announced on Saturday that it would be closing its borders to South Africa, Hong Kong, Mozambique, Namibia, Lesotho and Botswana.
  • Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, Finland and Malta have all announced restrictions on travelers from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini. Switzerland banned all direct flights from the same seven countries as well. France extended its suspension of flights from the seven countries until midnight local time on Tuesday. Denmark’s government is advising against all travel to those countries.
  • Egypt, Singapore, Malaysia, Dubai, Oman and Jordan have also announced restrictions on the seven countries. Saudi Arabia suspended flights from the seven countries on Friday, plus an additional seven — Malawi, Zambia, Madagascar, Angola, Seychelles, Mauritius and Comoros — on Saturday, the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
  • Morocco announced the suspension of all global incoming air flights to the kingdom starting November 29 for two weeks, according to the state-run news agency MAP.
  • Meanwhile, Germany declared South Africa a “virus variant area” starting Friday night, which means that airlines may only enter from the country to repatriate German citizens.
  • President Biden announced that the United States will restrict travel from South Africa and seven other countries starting Monday. Acting on advice from Dr. Anthony Fauci and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Biden administration will restrict travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi. Officials, who are still learning more about the variant, said the policy was implemented out of an abundance of caution.
  • Canada is taking similar steps as the US, according to its health minister. South Korea tightened its border against travelers from the same eight countries.
  • Greece will allow only essential travel from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique, Eswatini, Zambia and Malawi, the country’s health ministry said Friday. Australia is also banning the entry of foreign citizens who have traveled to the nine southern African countries in the previous 14 days. Kuwait on Saturday halted direct commercial flights from the same countries.
  • Starting Dec. 1, travelers from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe “will not be allowed to enter Thailand” and will not be permitted to apply for entry.
  • Russia said on Friday it will restrict entry into its country for citizens from nine countries — South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Madagascar, Eswatini, Tanzania — as well as Hong Kong.
  • Turkey issued a travel ban from five African countries — Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe — through land, air, sea and rail border crossings starting Friday night, according to a tweet from the Turkish health minister.
  • Colombia’s President Iván Duque Márquez announced Saturday that all passengers arriving from South Africa will have to go into mandatory quarantine for 15 days.
  • Indonesia will refuse entry of foreign nationals traveling from eight southern African countries — South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, Eswatini and Nigeria — within the last 14 days.

The world is in a "race against time" with the Omicron variant, EU commission president says

President of EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen attends a joint press conference after a meeting in Riga, Latvia, on November 28.

The world is in a “race against time” with the Omicron coronavirus variant, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Sunday during a visit to Riga, Latvia.

The European Union is taking the threat posed by the Omicron variant “very seriously,” adding that it will take scientists and manufacturers two to three weeks “to get a full picture of the quality of the mutations,” she said. 

Von der Leyen stressed that it should be countries’ “highest priority” to vaccinate their citizens and administer boosters. She also emphasized the importance of mask-wearing, hand hygiene, and social distancing to “buy time” until more is known about the Omicron variant. 

Some context: So far, 65.9% of the European Union population is currently fully vaccinated, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control dashboard on Sunday.

Travel bans targeting Africa threaten "global solidarity," WHO Africa director says

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Office for Africa said Sunday that it stands with African nations and called for borders to remain open as an increasing number of countries around the world impose flight bans on Southern Africa due to concerns over the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

The office said countries should take a risk-based and scientific approach and put in place measures that can limit its possible spread.

With the Omicron variant now detected in several regions of the world, “putting in place travel bans that target Africa attacks global solidarity,” WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said.

“Covid-19 constantly exploits our divisions. We will only get the better of the virus if we work together for solutions,” Moeti added.

Travel restrictions may play a role in slightly reducing the spread of Covid-19 but “place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods.

If restrictions are implemented, they should not be unnecessarily invasive or intrusive, and should be scientifically based, according to the International Health Regulations which is a legally binding instrument of international law recognized by over 190 nations,” WHO Africa said in a statement, adding that WHO is “scaling up” support to genomic sequencing in the continent.

“The speed and transparency of the South African and Botswana governments in informing the world of the new variant is to be commended. WHO stands with African countries which had the courage to boldly share life-saving public health information, helping protect the world against the spread of Covid-19,” Moeti said. “On the eve of a special session on pandemic preparedness I urge all countries to respect their legal obligations and implement scientifically based public health actions. It is critical that countries which are open with their data are supported as this is the only way to ensure we receive important data in a timely manner.”

Some context: WHO announced Friday that it had designated the newly identified coronavirus variant, B.1.1.529, as a variant of concern, named Omicron.

A WHO official told CNN Friday that travel bans on travelers from Southern African nations over concerns about the spread of a new Covid-19 variant are “draconian measures” that might stop future scientists from coming quickly with news of new variants.

Third case of the Omicron variant detected in the United Kingdom

Another case of the Omicron Covid-19 variant has been confirmed in the United Kingdom, the Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said Sunday in a statement.

As of 8 a.m. (3 a.m. ET) on Sunday, there have been three cases of Covid-19 with mutations consistent with B.1.1.529 confirmed in the UK, the agency said.

The individual tested positive after traveling to the UK and is linked to travel to southern Africa, the agency said, adding that the person “is no longer in the UK, but the UKHSA is carrying out targeted testing at locations where the positive case visited when they were likely to have been infectious”.

The agency said that while in the UK, the individual was in Westminster, London, England.

On Saturday: The UK Department of Health said the first two cases of the Omicron variant had been detected in England, in Essex and Nottingham. Targeted testing and contact tracing is now underway, the department said in a news release. 

Morocco will suspend all incoming air traffic for 2 weeks

Morocco has announced the suspension of all global incoming air flights to the kingdom starting Nov. 29 for two weeks, Morocco’s state-run news agency MAP reported. 

“The suspension of all incoming travel flights to the Moroccan Kingdom for two weeks, starting tomorrow Monday Nov. 29, 2021 at 23:59 pm, and this decision comes due to the spread of new Covid-19 variant ‘Omnicron,’” MAP tweeted.

Earlier, Morocco announced that it will restrict entry to nationals from South Africa and other southern African countries in addition to passengers who are transiting through these countries in an effort to curb the spread of the new variant.  

Indonesia to limit travel from southern African countries to combat spread of Omicron variant

People line up for a flight at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, on November 26.

Indonesia will refuse entry of foreign nationals traveling from eight southern African countries in an effort to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant, Indonesia’s Immigration Department said on Sunday in a press release.

The measure, which will go into effect on Monday, will ban entry of foreign nationals who visited South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, Eswatini and Nigeria within the last 14 days, the statement said. 

Indonesian citizens who travel from those countries will have to quarantine for 14 days upon returning to Indonesia.

The government will also temporarily stop issuing new visas to the citizens of the above countries, the statement added.

Germany confirms third case of Omicron variant

A third case of the Omicron Covid-19 variant has been detected in Germany.

The latest case was detected in the central German state of Hesse. The previous two were detected in Munich, Bavaria.

“The sequencing has confirmed the result — the suspected case announced yesterday morning is the Omicron variant,” Hesse’s Minister of State for Social Affairs and Integration Kai Klose tweeted.

The Hessian Ministry for Social Affairs and Integration said in a statement the patient entered Germany via Frankfurt Airport from South Africa on Nov. 21.

“The person is fully vaccinated. She had developed symptoms over the week and then had a test. Then she was isolated at home, ” Klose said in the statement.

The Health Ministry told CNN on the phone the passenger developed symptoms a few days after she landed in Germany.

Biden restricts travel from South Africa and 7 other countries starting Monday

Travelers queue at a check-in counter at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on November 27.

President Joe Biden announced Friday the US will restrict travel from South Africa and seven other countries starting Monday as a new coronavirus variant has emerged.

Acting on advice from the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Biden administration will restrict travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.

Biden on Friday night signed the official proclamation restricting the travel of those “physically present” in the countries during the “14-day period preceding their entry, or attempted entry into the United States.”

The proclamation includes a list of those exempted from the new restrictions, including US citizens, lawful permanent residents and noncitizens who are the spouses of citizens or permanent residents.

It says it will remain in effect until terminated by the President and will not apply to any flights scheduled to arrive in the US that depart prior to 12:01 a.m. EST on Monday.

The decision to restrict travel comes as the federal government is still attempting to learn more about the new variant, named Omicron. They need to see more sequencing, but after discussing what they’ve seen so far, officials decided to halt travel from these other countries out of concern about what they don’t yet know.

Biden was briefed Friday on the new coronavirus variant circulating in southern Africa, he said in the announcement.

Read more here.

Denmark confirms 2 cases of Omicron coronavirus variant

Denmark has confirmed two cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant, on passengers arriving by plane from South Africa, the Danish State Serum Institute told CNN on Sunday. 

Both passengers are in isolation in Denmark, and their close contacts have also been advised to isolate, according to the Serum Institute.

It’s unclear if those passengers are symptomatic, were vaccinated and underwent testing prior to boarding.

Omicron variant found in 13 passengers tested at Amsterdam airport Friday, Dutch authorities say

Red Cross workers transport passengers infected with coronavirus returning from South Africa for quarantine at a hotel in Schiphol, Netherlands, on November 27.

Dutch health authorities said that the Omicron variant had been identified in at least 13 people who got tested at Amsterdam Schiphol airport after landing from South Africa on Friday.

Netherlands’ National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) said in a statement published Sunday that the variant had been detected through the sequencing of the 61 positive Covid-19 results obtained by local health authorities at the airport on Friday.

It added that the sequencing “had not been entirely completed” and that it was “possible that the new variant will be found in more test samples.”

statement posted Saturday by RIVM said that Omicron had been “presumably found” in a number of people tested at the airport on Friday morning.

A total of 624 passengers from two flights returning from South Africa were tested by GGD Kennemerland (the municipal health service responsible for the Amsterdam Schiphol airport) upon arrival, GGD said Friday.

Some context: The Netherlands put in place a flight ban on Friday on several countries of Southern Africa. Flights may continue if they carry Dutch citizens and/or travelers with an EU or Schengen-area passport.

Those citizens can enter the Netherlands with a negative PCR test result taken in the past 24 hours and have to quarantine for 10 days upon arrival, or for five days if they show a negative test result, per a notice from the Dutch government’s website.

The two flights that landed on Friday morning at Amsterdam Schiphol airport had left South Africa before the flight ban took effect at 12 p.m. Dutch time. Dutch authorities said that “passengers of the flights that were already en route to the Netherlands before the flight ban came into effect will do a PCR test after landing and go into quarantine.”

Italy confirms first case of Omicron Covid-19 variant in a traveler coming from Mozambique

Italian authorities have identified the first confirmed case of the Omicron variant in the country, Italy’s health ministry said in a statement released Saturday. 

The one case, identified in the southwestern region of Campania, is a passenger who arrived from Mozambique, the statement said, but without disclosing the date of the passenger’s arrival or nationality.

The genomic testing was done in Milan, the statement added

Mozambique is located on the southeast coast of Africa.

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NHL postpones upcoming New York Islanders games due to Covid-19 outbreak
Travel to Mexico during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go
Vaccine inequity and hesitancy made the Omicron variant more likely, scientists say

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NHL postpones upcoming New York Islanders games due to Covid-19 outbreak
Travel to Mexico during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go
Vaccine inequity and hesitancy made the Omicron variant more likely, scientists say