New variant ‘Omicron’ emerging from Africa causing govts to react quickly to prevent further spread

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared Omicron a “variant of concern” as scientists work to discover whether it is more infectious than other strains.  Many countries have shut their doors to travel from Africa with quarantine being reintroduced in places where it was previously relaxed.

Thailand has reacted quickly with an urgent announcement posted last night on the Thailand Pass website says, the issuance of Thailand Pass for travellers from the following 8 countries will be temporarily suspended: 

1. Botswana

2. Eswatini

3. Lesotho

4. Malawi

5. Mozambique

6. Namibia

7. South Africa

8. Zimbabwe

Additionally people coming from other countries in the African region must now submit to the 14-day alternative quarantine

“This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning”. “The WHO went on to add, “Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs (variants of concern).”

But the strain has already spread around the world, with cases detected in the UK, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel.  Belgium detected the first announced case of Omicron in Europe and countries in Europe slammed their borders shut to travellers from African countries.

Many countries have banned flights from Africa, with only their citizens are allowed back in, and often submitted to isolation upon entry.

Since its discovery, the new variant is worrying scientists with fears the highly-mutated strain could be more transmissible or more resistant to vaccines. This is because the variant has over 50 mutations, with 32 of those located in the spike region, which could change how the virus attaches to human cells. This is also the area that vaccines focus on.

Updated : Israel is the first country to close its borders to all foreigners later Sunday in a bid to stem the spread of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, authorities said. “The entry of foreign nationals into Israel is banned except for cases approved by a special committee,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement, adding that the measure would take effect on Sunday evening. It was only four weeks ago that Israel reopened its borders to foreign tourists after a prolonged closure due to Covid.

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