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Omicron COVID Strain
The new COVID variant was initially detected in South Africa and Botswana and sparked major concerns due to its high number of mutations (32). The WHO dubbed the strain Omicron and warned it may prove to be more transmissible and dangerous than other coronavirus variants.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gives a media statement on the Covid-19 vaccines, in Brussels, on October 18, 2021. - Sputnik International

COVID-19 Live Updates: EU Chief Urges Discussion on Mandatory Vaccination as Omicron Spreads

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The emergence of the Omicron variant has resulted in the implementation of travel restrictions on southern African countries by governments around the world in an effort to slow the spread of the mutated virus strain.
The Omicron strain of coronavirus was first identified in southern Africa last week, with the World Health Organization classifying it as a variant of concern.
Healthcare officials in South Africa said the Omicron infections have been mild and called the initial reaction in the Western media "a storm in a teacup".
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18:46 GMT 01.12.2021
CDC Reportedly Identifies First Case of Omicron in California
18:09 GMT 01.12.2021
WHO Says No Data Yet on Deaths Related to Omicron Coronavirus Strain
The World Health Organization (WHO) does not yet have data on deaths from the new Omicron coronavirus strain, Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 technical lead at the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, said on Wednesday.

"We don't have an answer to that part yet, in terms of deaths associated with Omicron. This data is coming in daily and we will report that, but not just deaths, the clinical spectrum and disease presentation," Van Kerkhove told the press in response to a question on the mortality rate from the new strain.

The WHO expert noted that more information on the transmissibility of Omicron, as well as other details, will emerge in the coming days and encouraged countries with confirmed cases to share data. So far, the WHO has received information about new cases ranging from mild to more severe, but it is too early to make any conclusions, Van Kerkhove said.

During an emergency meeting last week, the WHO decided to classify the new variant of the coronavirus discovered in South Africa as one of concern given its high number of mutations. The new strain, B.1.1.529, was dubbed Omicron after the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet.
18:00 GMT 01.12.2021
Italian Health Minister Says Country in Difficult COVID-19 Situation
Italy, like the rest of Europe, is now experiencing difficult times with an increase in the number of cases of COVID-19 and the spread of the coronavirus Omicron variant, Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza said on Wednesday.

"Things are not simple at the moment… We are in the middle of the pandemic, with numbers rising all over Europe and also in our country, although with slightly lower numbers," Speranza said during the Healthcare Summit, as quoted by Italian national news agency ANSA.

The minister also added that the only way out of the current situation is to boost vaccination, noting that Italy is now witnessing an "encouraging" increase in the number of those vaccinated.

Earlier on Wednesday, ANSA reported that even the leaders of the Italian anti-vax movement are changing their attitude towards vaccination as the number of unvaccinated hospitalized due to COVID-19 increased by 17%.

Italy’s total case count is over 5 million, while the death toll stands at 133,739.
16:30 GMT 01.12.2021
ICAO Urges Measured, Evidence-Based Approach to Air Transport Restrictions Over Omicron
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) said on Wednesday that it has issued a new bulletin calling on nations to implement a more measured and evidence-based approach to air transport restrictions regarding the coronavirus Omicron variant.

"In line with the latest recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO), ICAO issued a new global bulletin today urging a more measured and evidence-based approach to countries’ national air transport restrictions due to the emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant," the organization said in a press release.

The emergence of Omicron has resulted in the implementation of travel restrictions on travellers from southern African countries primarily by Western and other governments in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus variant.

"Until more detailed assessments are available, the UN aviation agency is encouraging countries to continue combatting the spread of COVID-19, and specifically the Omicron variant, using the recommendations and guidance contained in the ICAO Council Aviation Recovery Task Force’s (CART) Take-off Guidance for Air Travel through the COVID-19 Public Health Crisis, in addition to the third edition of ICAO’s Manual on COVID-19 Cross-Border Risk Management," the release said.

ICAO also pointed out that the restrictions are affecting millions of livelihoods globally and the basic capabilities of many countries to pursue current UN Agenda 2030 and Common Agenda objectives for global sustainability, prosperity, equality and well-being.

"Countries are encouraged to follow and implement ICAO’s guidance with the coordination and support of the ICAO Regional Offices, and according to their specific national needs and circumstances," the release said.

The new Omicron variant was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) by South Africa on November 24. According to the WHO, its high number of mutations in spike protein could make it more transmissible than all previous strains. South African medical official have reported the variant was found in fully vaccinated individuals and the cases are mild.
15:24 GMT 01.12.2021
WHO: Omicron COVID Variant Confirmed in 23 Countries
The new Omicron coronavirus variant has been confirmed in 23 countries and their number is expected to rise, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday.

"At least 23 countries from five of six WHO regions have now reported cases of Omicron and we expect that number to grow. WHO takes this development extremely seriously," Tedros told a press conference.
15:08 GMT 01.12.2021
Heathrow Airport Reopens Terminal 4 to Process Arrivals From COVID Red List Countries, Report Says
14:30 GMT 01.12.2021
First Omicron Case Detected in Ghana
The first case of the novel Omicron variant of the coronavirus has been detected in Ghana in the samples of a Nigerian traveler dated November 21, the national health service said.

The country's first Omicron variant case has been detected at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra through an active testing campaign. The transmission of the new variant within the community has not yet been registered.

"There is the emergence of the new variant and I must say, through the robust testing at the Kotoka International Airport, Ghana has detected the Omicron variant already and the cases have come mainly from Nigeria and South Africa," Director-General of the Ghana Health Service Patrick Kumah Aboagye said on Wednesday, as cited by online news agency GhanaWeb.

At the same time, the director-general noted that the spread of the Omicron variant is possible if, due to the incubation period, it is not detected during airport testing.

The authorities assured citizens that security protocols at the airport had been strengthened and urged all people to observe COVID-19 prevention measures.
13:57 GMT 01.12.2021
South Korea Moves UN Peacekeeping Forum Online Amid Omicron Concerns, Reports Say
South Korea announced on Wednesday that the UN peacekeeping forum planned for December will be held in the online format instead of face-to-face sessions amid growing concerns about the spread of the new Omicron coronavirus strain, Yonhap news agency reported.

The first and largest UN Peacekeeping Ministerial in Asia was set to be held in Seoul on December 7-8. Initially the forum was to be held in a face-to-face format with 400 visitors from over 100 countries.

"The government reviewed the international conference as soon as the outbreak of the omicron variant occurred, considering the global spread of omicron virus cases and its impact on health and safety of our people," the South Korean Foreign Ministry announced as quoted by Yonhap.

The ministry noted that participants will be able to join the online sessions, which will be live-streamed on YouTube and UN Web TV.
13:45 GMT 01.12.2021
Brazil Confirms Third Case of Omicron Variant
12:56 GMT 01.12.2021
South Korea Confirms First Cases of New Omicron Coronavirus Variant
12:45 GMT 01.12.2021
WHO Official Says Delta is Becoming Dominant Variant in European Countries
12:31 GMT 01.12.2021
EU Decision on Travel Restrictions Expected By End of Week, French Government Spokesman Says
The EU will make a decision on travel restrictions within the bloc due to the spread of the Omicron coronavirus strain by the end of the week, French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday.

"The question is raised about the mandatory negative result of the PCR test for travel within the EU. We are working on this issue in coordination with our European partners. The decision will be made by the end of the week," Attal told a briefing.
12:21 GMT 01.12.2021
One Case of Omicron Variant Found in Ireland
12:09 GMT 01.12.2021
Von Der Leyen: Time to 'Think About Mandatory Vaccination' in EU
Mandatory COVID-19 vaccination should be discussed within the European Union, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday.

"It is appropriate to lead this discussion now how we can encourage and potentially think about mandatory vaccination within the EU, this needs discussion," von der Leyen told a press conference.
10:34 GMT 01.12.2021
Malaysia to Close Borders for Countries With Confirmed Omicron Cases
The Malaysian government will restrict entry to foreign travelers coming from countries which have confirmed cases of the new Omicron strain of the coronavirus, Malaysian Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said on Wednesday.

"The temporary travel restrictions are for non-Malaysian travelers from countries that have reported the transmission of Omicron, high-risk countries where Omicron transmission have occurred such as those listed or travelers who have a history of travel to those countries 14 days before arrival," Khairy said at a press conference, as quoted by Malaysian newspaper The Star.

Permanent residents and holders of other long-term residence permits will also be exempt from the ban, while international students and foreign workers will be affected, he said.

The minister said that as of Tuesday, 20 countries were known to have reported positive COVID-19 cases with Omicron infection, but added that the full list of countries considered "high risk" will be prepared and released by the ministry.
09:48 GMT 01.12.2021
India Postpones Resumption of Regular International Flights Amid Omicron Threat
09:00 GMT 01.12.2021
Syringes with needles are seen in front of a displayed stock graph and words Omicron SARS-CoV-2 in this illustration taken, November 27, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration - Sputnik International, 1920, 01.12.2021
Omicron COVID Strain
Scientists at Hong Kong University First in Asia to Isolate Omicron Coronavirus Variant
08:25 GMT 01.12.2021
Denmark: Person Infected With Omicron Strain Participated in Large Concert
08:24 GMT 01.12.2021
Saudi Arabia Confirms First Case of Omicron Variant
07:23 GMT 01.12.2021
Japan to Ban Entries From 10 African Countries Over Omicron From Thursday
Japan will impose indefinite ban on entry of all foreigners from 10 African countries where cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant have been found, including long-term visa holders who normally reside in Japan and were out of the country temporarily, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said on Wednesday.

"The measure comes into effect Thursday and will remain in place for the time being," Matsuno told a press conference, as quoted by the Kyodo news agency.

The list of 10 countries includes Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Exceptions due to special circumstances for entry apply to foreign spouses and children of Japanese citizens, diplomats and humanitarian cases. Matsuno also said that Japan was narrowing eligibility for such exemptions as part of efforts to keep out the Omicron variant, and would no longer accept government-funded international students or participants in the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program.

Japan confirmed its first Omicron variant case on Tuesday, and has already barred foreign arrivals for all shorter-term visa holders. Japanese citizens and residents returning from abroad must spend up to ten days of their two-week quarantine period in a government-established facility.
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