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Omicron may soon cause over half of Europe's COVID infections: EU

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* WHO team in South Africa to tackle variant
* Omicron variant found in multiple US states
* Iceland’s first Omicron case reported in man who had not travelled
* Germany cracks down on unjabbed

BELGIUM,SWITZERLAND,GERMANY,ICELAND: The European Union’s public health agency said on Thursday that the Omicron variant could be responsible for more than half of all COVID-19 infections in Europe within a few months.

The estimate could lend weight to preliminary information about the very high transmissibility of the Omicron variant, above that of the Delta variant, which before Omicron was considered the most contagious of the main coronavirus strains.

“Based on mathematical modelling conducted by ECDC, there are indications that Omicron could cause over half of all SARS-CoV-2 infections in the EU/EEA within the next few months,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said in a statement.

There is no conclusive evidence about Omicron’s transmissibility so far but the World Health Organization’s lead person on COVID-19, Maria van Kerkhove, said on Wednesday the agency expected to have data on this within days.

Europe has so far recorded a few dozens of infections with the Omicron variant, which was first detected in southern Africa last month.

The European Union and European Economic Area (EEA) include the 27 EU member states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

Meanwhile, The World Health Organisation (WHO) has deployed a team of officials to South Africa’s Gauteng province for ramping up surveillance measures and contact tracing efforts as the country grapples with rising infections, an official said on Thursday.

Omicron, which was first identified in South Africa exactly a week ago, now has been detected in at least 24 countries around the world, according to the WHO.

The Gauteng Province, which is the economic hub of South Africa, has accounted for almost 80 per cent of the infections over the past week.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said at the same briefing that around 75 per cent of samples tested positive for the new variant.

For the month of November, we had 249 sequences and of those, 183 have been considered to be Omicron, said NICD clinical microbiologist professor Anne von Gottberg.

Meanwhile, Germany on Thursday unveiled strict curbs on public life for the unvaccinated as alarm fanned worldwide over the Omicron variant, and Joe Biden announced America’s winter battle plans against COVID-19.

US President Joe Biden urged political opponents to put aside their differences and back his winter plan, with new testing requirements for travellers and a surge in vaccination efforts. “It’s a plan that I think should unite us,” Biden said.

Meanwhile, Iceland’s health authorities have confirmed the country’s first known case of the new Omicron coronavirus variant, newspaper Morgunbladid reported.

The adult man who was infected was fully vaccinated and had received a booster shot, chief physician Mar Kristjansson at The National University Hospital of Iceland told the newspaper. The person, who is in isolation at the hospital but not critically ill, had not been travelling abroad, he said.

Meanwhile, the Omicron variant of COVID-19, which had been undetected in the US before the middle of this week, had been discovered in at least five states by the end of Thursday, showing yet again how mutations of the virus can circumnavigate the globe with speed and ease.- THE INDIAN EXPRESS, THE MALAY MAIL, THE HINDUSTAN TIMES

Saturday, December 4, 2021 – 01:00

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