(NewsNation Now) — Confirmed or suspected cases of the new omicron variant have been reported in several countries just days after it was identified by researchers in South Africa.
Scientists in several places — from Hong Kong to Europe to North America — have confirmed its presence.
Here is an updating list of where cases have been detected so far:
Portugal became the latest country to detect the omicron variant of the coronavirus in travelers who arrived from southern Africa. French authorities were also waiting Monday for laboratory confirmation of multiple suspected cases of the omicron variant, involving people who traveled recently to southern Africa.
The Dutch public health authority confirmed Sunday that 13 people who arrived in the Netherlands on flights from South Africa on Friday have so far tested positive for the variant.
The 61 people who tested positive for the virus on Friday after arriving on the last two flights to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport before a flight ban was put in place were immediately put into isolation while sequencing was carried out to establish if they had the new variant.
Britain’s Department of Health said the two cases found in the U.K. were linked and involved travel from southern Africa. One of the two new cases was in the southeastern English town of Brentwood, while the other was in the central city of Nottingham. The two confirmed cases are self-isolating with their households while contact tracing and targeted testing takes place.
British health minister Sajid Javid said on Sunday he expected to receive advice imminently on whether the government can broaden a program of providing booster shots to fully vaccinated people, to try to weaken the impact of the variant.
Canada’s health minister said Sunday that the country’s first two cases of omicron were found in Ontario after two individuals who had recently traveled from Nigeria tested positive.
“As the monitoring continues, it is expected that other cases of this variant will be found in Canada and other countries,” the Public Health Agency of Canada said in a statement.
On Saturday, Israel said it had detected the new strain in a traveler who had returned from Malawi and was investigating seven other suspected cases. The seven people included three vaccinated individuals and all were placed in isolation.
Israel on Sunday approved barring entry to foreign nationals and the use of controversial technology for contact tracing as part of its efforts to clamp down on a new coronavirus variant.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Sunday that tightening Israel’s borders will help keep the country open internally.
David Hui, a respiratory medicine expert and government adviser on the pandemic in Hong Kong, said that the two people who tested positive for the omicron variant had received the BioNTech-Pfizer shot and exhibited very mild symptoms, such as a sore throat.
He said that even though it is not clear if current coronavirus vaccines are effective against the new variant, the city’s vaccination rate should be increased and booster doses should be implemented as soon as possible.
“Vaccines should work but there would be some reduction in effectiveness,” he said.
The German state of Bavaria reported a total of three cases in returning travelers over the weekend.
In Italy, the National Health Institute said a case of the new variant had been detected in Milan in a person coming from Mozambique.
The omicron variant has also been detected in Belgium, Denmark and Botswana.
South African scientists identified a new version of the coronavirus last week that they say is behind a recent spike in COVID-19 infections in Gauteng, the country’s most populous province.
It’s unclear where the new variant first emerged, but scientists in South Africa first alerted the World Health Organization and it has now been seen spreading as travelers are bringing it across borders.
Health Minister Joe Phaahla said the variant was linked to an “exponential rise” of cases in the last few days, although experts are still trying to determine if the new variant is actually responsible.
Many countries have imposed or are planning restrictions on travel from southern Africa. The South African government denounced this on Saturday as unfair and potentially harmful to its economy – saying it is being punished for its scientific ability to identify coronavirus variants early.
French authorities are waiting Monday for laboratory confirmation of eight suspected cases of the omicron variant, involving people who traveled recently to southern Africa.
Testing already conducted determined that the travelers were positive for the virus but not for one of its previous variants. Follow-up genetic testing was being done to see if they were infected with the new omicron variant.
The Health Ministry said Sunday night that results could take several days. If confirmed, they would be France’s first known cases of the omicron variant.
Portuguese health authorities said Monday they have identified 13 cases of omicron, the new coronavirus variant believed to be more contagious, among team members of a professional soccer club.
The Ricardo Jorge National Health Institute said Monday that one of those who tested positive at the Lisbon-based Belenenses soccer club had recently traveled to South Africa, where the omicron variant was first identified.
The others, however, had not traveled to South Africa, indicating that this may be one of the very first cases of local transmission of the virus outside of southern Africa.
Australian authorities announced on Monday a third case of the omicron COVID-19 variant as government leaders reconsidered plans to relax border restrictions this week.
Authorities in Australia previously said two overseas travelers who arrived in Sydney from Africa became the first in the country to test positive for the variant. Arrivals from nine African countries are now required to quarantine in a hotel upon arrival.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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