Health officials say Omicron probably in the Netherlands prior to South Africa reports

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Dutch health officials say they’ve detected the Omicron variant in 2 local Covid-19 infections from more than 11 days ago. The development would indicate that the variant was circulating in Europe prior to the reports issued by South African authorities last week.

According to an AP report, Japan and France have joined the list of countries to confirm cases of Omicron, while scientists scramble to determine the severity of the threat posed by the variant. France reported its first case in the overseas territory of Reunion Island, in the Indian Ocean. A 53 year old man who travelled from Mozambique with a stop in South Africa has tested positive for the variant. The man is in quarantine with muscle pain and fatigue, according to local microbiologist, Patrick Mavingui.

Meanwhile, just 1 day after it shut its borders to all international arrivals, Japan confirmed its first Omicron case in a recently-arrived passenger from Namibia. According to the AP report, the man is in his thirties and tested positive at Narita Airport. He has been isolated and is receiving hospital treatment.

Cambodia has joined Thailand and several other countries in banning arrivals from a number of African countries. The move comes just 2 weeks after Cambodia re-opened to vaccinated foreign travellers.

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The World Health Organisation has issued a statement describing the risk from Omicron as, “very high”, adding that early evidence would indicate the variant has mutations that could evade vaccines and enable it to spread quickly. The organisation is urging governments to ramp up vaccination as quickly as possible.

While doctors in South Africa have reported that most Omicron patients have only mild symptoms, the majority of them are in their 20s and 30s, a group that would generally not be at risk of severe illness. The effect of Omicron on older age groups is not yet known.

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Maya Taylor

A seasoned writer, with a degree in Creative Writing. Over ten years' experience in producing blog and magazine articles, news reports and website content.

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