World is put on high alert over the Omicron coronavirus variant - CNN
Nov 27, 2021 2 mins, 16 secs
As of Friday, the variant was found in South Africa, Botswana, Hong Kong and Belgium, with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said Friday there was a "high to very high" risk the new variant would spread in Europe.

By midday on Saturday, two cases were confirmed in the United Kingdom and dozens more suspected in the Netherlands, Germany and the Czech Republic.

It said the sequencing work is underway.

Dutch health authorities are investigating whether 61 people traveling from South Africa who tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday were infected with the new and potentially more transmissible coronavirus variant known as Omicron.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that to date no known Omicron cases have been identified in the United States, and that if the variant emerges, the agency expects that cases would be quickly identified through the nation's variant surveillance system.

Fauci, the CDC Director, told NBC Saturday, "I would not be surprised if it is [in the US], we have not detected it yet, but when you have a virus that is showing this degree of transmissibility and you're having travel-related cases they've noted in other places already, when you have a virus like this, it almost invariably is going to go all over."

The World Health Organization (WHO) said late on Friday that early evidence suggest the Omicron variant, first identified in South Africa, could pose an increased risk of reinfection and said that some of the mutations detected on the variant were concerning.

Crucially, South African genomic scientists said Thursday more than 30 of the mutations were found in the spike protein -- the structure the virus uses to get into the cells they attack.

South Africa cut off

The discovery of the variant sparked a fresh round of travel restrictions across the world, with many countries shutting their borders to travelers from several southern African countries.

"Over the duration of this pandemic, we have observed that imposing bans on travelers from countries where a new variant is reported has not yielded a meaningful outcome," the statement said.

Scientists have praised South African health authorities for their quick reaction to a Covid-19 outbreak in the country's Gauteng province, which led to the discovery of the new variant.

When cases in the province started to rise at a higher rate than elsewhere, health experts focused on sequencing samples from those who tested positive, which allowed them to quickly identify the B.1.1.529 variant.

Peacock said the South African health ministry and its scientists "are to be applauded in their response, their science, and in sounding the alarm to the world."

She added the development shows how important it is to have excellent sequencing capabilities and to share expertise with others.

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