Australia and several other countries joined countries imposing travel restrictions from South Africa on Saturday after the discovery of a new alternative, Omicron, sparked global concern and sparked a flurry of asset sales in financial markets.
But in a sign that such restrictions may not contain the spread of the variant, the United Kingdom said on Saturday it had detected two cases and officials in Germany and the Czech Republic also said they suspected cases.
Omicron, classified as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization, is likely to be more contagious than previous variants of the disease, although experts are not yet sure whether it will cause more or less serious illness compared to other strains of coronavirus.
The variant was first discovered in South Africa and has since also been discovered in Belgium, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong.
Dutch authorities said that 61 of the 600 people who arrived in Amsterdam on two flights from South Africa on Friday have tested positive for the coronavirus. Health officials are running more tests to see if these cases involve the new variant.
Dutch photographer Paula Zimmermann, a passenger who arrived from South Africa on Friday, said she came back negative but was worried about the days ahead after spending hours on a flight that likely had several infected passengers.
“I was told the expectation is that more people will test positive after five days,” she said. “It’s a bit scary idea that you were on a plane with so many people testing positive.”
It may take weeks for scientists to fully understand the mutations in the variant and whether existing vaccines and treatments are effective against it. Omicron is the fifth variant of concern identified by the World Health Organization.
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