KEY POINTS

  • Dutch officials confirmed 13 new cases of the Omicron variant Sunday
  • Canada, Australia, the U.K. and Germany also logged new cases
  • The WHO said studies are underway to determine whether Omicron spreads faster than earlier variants

The Omicron variant of COVID-19, which has been tagged by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a “variant of concern,” continues to spread around the world as new cases were detected in several countries, including Canada and the Netherlands, over the weekend.

Netherlands

Health authorities in the Netherlands confirmed Sunday that there were 13 confirmed Omicron cases from two flights that arrived in the country from South Africa on Friday, Reuters reported. Of the two flights that carried about 600 passengers, 61 people tested positive of COVID-19. Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge warned at a press briefing in Rotterdam that the current number of Omicron cases “could possibly be the tip of the iceberg” as there could still be more cases popping up across the country.

Canada

Ontario health officials Kieran Moore and Christine Elliott confirmed Sunday that two people who recently traveled to Nigeria have contracted the Omicron variant, New York Daily News reported. In a joint statement, Moore and Elliott said Ontario Health has started contact tracing and the patients have been placed in isolation.

Australia

The New South Wales health department is waiting for genomic testing results for two passengers who arrived on a flight Sunday to determine whether they contracted the new variant following two confirmed cases of Omicron in Sydney. The confirmed cases announced Sunday in Sydney were recent returnees from southern Africa, The Guardian reported.

The Northern Territory health department also confirmed one Omicron variant case Monday. The patient tested positive of COVID-19 after returning from Johannesburg and has since been transported to the Howard Springs quarantine facility.

United Kingdom

The Health Security Agency said Sunday that a third case of the Omicron variant has been detected in the country, and while the patient is no longer in the U.K., the agency said the confirmed case visited Westminster, London, BBC News reported.

The United Kingdom has since implemented new measures to stop the variant from spreading, including mandatory PRC tests and isolation for arrivals until the results are out.

Germany

Following two earlier detections of Omicron variant in the southern state of Bavaria, Social Affairs Minister in the German state of Hesse confirmed Sunday that another case in the country was detected Saturday morning after the patient returned from South Africa, DW reported. Germany now has three confirmed Omicron cases.

Botswana

Botswana now has 19 confirmed cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant. Health Minister Edwin Dikoloti said Sunday that 15 new cases of the variant were detected in the country. After the first four cases were reported Friday, Dikoloti expressed concerns over “attempts to stigmatize the variant,” CNA reported. He added that Botswana may experience setbacks in its vaccination drive amid new travel restrictions on countries with confirmed Omicron cases that could delay vaccine transportation.

So far, the Omicron COVID-19 variant has also been detected in Belgium, Italy and France in the past week. First detected in South Africa on Nov. 24, the Omicron variant was named B.1.1.529 and “a variant of concern” by the WHO on Nov. 26.

However, the organization said further studies are needed to determine whether the new variant is more transmissible than earlier variants such as the Delta variant. The organization also noted that epidemiologic studies are ongoing to understand if the increase in positive cases across South Africa was due to the Omicron variant or there were other affecting factors.

The WHO has also recommended several measures for countries to prevent the spread of the new variant:

  • Improve surveillance and sequencing of confirmed cases
  • Share critical data on publicly available databases
  • Report cases or clusters to the organization
  • Help investigate variant’s transmissibility and characteristics
  • Implement necessary public health measures
    Health officials in Australia said they had detected the Covid Omicron strain for the first time
    Representation. AFP / William WEST
MEET IBT NEWS FROM BELOW CHANNELS

© Copyright IBTimes 2022. All rights reserved.