Nov 28 (Al Jazeera) – The United Kingdom, Germany and Italy have become the latest countries to detect cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant, while more nations imposed restrictions on travel from countries in southern Africa despite their protestations and against the advice of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Omicron, designated a “variant of concern” by the United Nations’ health agency, is potentially more contagious than previous variants, although experts do not know yet if it will cause more or less severe COVID-19 compared with other strains.
The two Omicron cases found in the UK on Saturday were connected to travel to southern Africa, British Health Minister Sajid Javid said.
Speaking later, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined measures that included stricter testing rules for people arriving in the country but which stopped short of curbs on social activity other than requiring mask wearing in some settings.
The health ministry in the German state of Bavaria also announced two confirmed cases of the variant. The two people entered Germany at Munich airport on November 24, before Germany designated South Africa as a virus-variant area, and were now isolating, the ministry said, indicating without stating explicitly that the people had travelled from South Africa.
In Italy, the National Health Institute said a case of the new variant had been detected in Milan in a person coming from Mozambique.
Czech health authorities also said they were examining a suspected case of the variant in a person who spent time in Namibia, while Denmark’s health ministry said it has likely found Omicron in two people who arrived from South Africa.
Dutch health authorities, meanwhile, said Omicron was “almost certainly” among some of the 61 passengers who tested positive after arriving on two flights from South Africa.