First case of Omicron variant confirmed in Italy – News Today
Rome: The Omicron variant of the coronavirus has been identified in a citizen of the southern Italian region of Campania, who returned from Mozambique to Milan a few days ago, Italian news agency ANSA reported on Sunday.
The patient, an employee of an international company, had been vaccinated with two doses, ANSA reported.
The Campania region said in a statement on Sunday that a returning citizen from southern Africa tested positive, as did his family of five. All his contacts were immediately placed in isolation as a precaution.
The genome was sequenced at Sacco Hospital in Milan from a positive sample taken from an individual from Mozambique. The patient and his family contacts are in good health, the National Institute of Health said on Saturday.
The World Health Organization said on Friday that the latest B.1.1.529 variant of SARS-CoV-2 was of concern, its most severe level, and officially gave it the Greek name Omicron. WHO has called on countries to strengthen surveillance and sequencing efforts to combat the new variant. Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza on Friday signed a travel ban for people who visited South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini and Malawi in the last 14 days.
Dutch health officials said all 13 cases of the variant were found among passengers on flights from South Africa that arrived in Amsterdam on Friday.
The discovery of Omicron, labeled a ‘worrying variant’ last week by the World Health Organization, raised concerns around the world that it could withstand vaccinations and prolong the COVID-19 pandemic by nearly two years.
First discovered in South Africa, the variant has since been detected in Britain, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong.
Health officials in Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, said two passengers who arrived in Sydney from southern Africa on Saturday evening tested positive for the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Both people were asymptomatic, fully vaccinated and in quarantine, NSW Health said. 12 other passengers from southern Africa were also in quarantine at the hotel for 14 days, while around 260 other passengers and crew were ordered to self-isolate.
Austria was investigating a suspected case on Sunday and in France, Health Minister Olivier Veran said the new variant was probably already circulating there.
Omicron is potentially more contagious than previous variants, although experts are not yet sure whether it will cause COVID-19 to be more or less severe compared to other strains.
Countries have imposed a wave of travel bans or restrictions on southern Africa. Financial markets plunged on Friday as investors feared the variant could block a global recovery. Oil prices have fallen by about $ 10 a barrel.
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In the most ambitious effort to keep the variant at bay, Israel announced on Saturday evening that it would ban the entry of all foreigners and reintroduce anti-terrorism phone tracking technology to contain the spread of the variant.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the ban, pending government approval, would last 14 days. Officials hope that during this period there will be more information about the effectiveness of vaccines against Omicron.
Many countries have imposed or are planning restrictions on travel from southern Africa. The South African government on Saturday denounced this as unfair and potentially damaging to its economy – claiming it was being punished for its scientific ability to identify variants of the coronavirus at an early stage.
In Britain, where two related Omicron cases identified on Saturday were linked to a trip to southern Africa, the government announced measures to try to contain the spread, including stricter testing rules for people arriving in the country and requiring the wearing of a mask in certain contexts.
UK Health Minister Sajid Javid said on Sunday he expected to receive advice imminently on whether the government can expand a booster vaccination program to fully vaccinated people, in an attempt to ” mitigate the impact of the variant.