Dutch find 61 Covid positive on ‘dystopia’ flights from S.Africa

by Joris FIORITI with Jan HENNOP in The Hague SCHIPHOL, Netherlands (AFP) — Dutch health authorities said Saturday the new Omicron strain of Covid-19 was “probably” among some of the 61 passengers who tested positive after arriving on two flights from South Africa. The cases — more than one tenth of the 600 people on the two planes — were quarantined in a hotel near Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, one of Europe’s biggest international air travel […]

Hospital confirms first Czech case of new Covid strain

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AFP) — The regional hospital in the northern Czech city of Liberec confirmed the new Omicron strain of Covid-19 in a female patient, its spokesman Vaclav Ricar told Czech Television Saturday. “My colleagues from the department of genetics and molecular diagnostics confirmed the strain with 90-percent probability after a sequence analysis,” said Ricar. Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said earlier Saturday that the woman had been in Namibia and flew back to […]

World’s largest vaccine maker Serum Institute of India resumes Covid-19 shot exports

The world’s largest vaccine maker Serum Institute of India on Friday resumed exports of Covid-19 shots, it said, in a boost for poorer countries that have struggled to secure supplies. The shipment to Tajikistan under the COVAX vaccine-sharing initiative agreement was the company’s first in seven months. “This will go a long way in restoring vaccine supply equality in the world,” tweeted billionaire chief executive Adar Poonawalla. “It’s a huge moment to begin exports again, […]

Australia bans southern Africa flights over virus concerns

Australia banned flights from nine southern African countries on Saturday, tightening its borders to prevent the entry of the new Covid-19 Omicron variant. Non-Australians who visited South Africa, Zimbabwe and several other nations in the past fortnight will also be barred from Australia, Heath Minister Greg Hunt said. Citizens and residents travelling from the listed countries will have to quarantine for 14 days. “These are strong, swift, decisive and immediate actions,” Hunt told media in […]

US health panel says Merck pill can prevent grave Covid infections

An anti-Covid pill developed by Merck has proved effective in treating the disease, the US Food and Drug Administration said Friday in a much-awaited preliminary report. But the report, from an FDA advisory panel, cautioned that pregnant women should not use the drug, known as molnupiravir, saying the potential benefits do not outweigh the risks for those patients. The report is meant to provide guidance to an FDA experts panel convening Tuesday to consider whether […]

US, Canada restrict travel from southern Africa as new variant sparks concern

by Daniel Woolls with AFP bureaus The United States, Brazil, Canada, and Saudi Arabia became the latest countries Friday to restrict travel from southern Africa, where a new Covid strain labelled a “variant of concern” has been discovered in a potentially heavy blow to the world’s efforts to end the coronavirus pandemic. The World Health Organization said the new variant is more infectious than the dominant, highly transmissible Delta strain, and renamed this B.1.1.529 strain […]

New Covid variant raises fears of next delta, or worse

by Paul RICARD Agence France Presse It is, scientists say, the most worrying Covid-19 variant since delta and perhaps ever. Here is what we know — and what we don’t — about the strain thought to have originated in Southern Africa. – How worrying? “This one is worrying and I’ve not said that since delta,” British virologist Ravi Gupta said on Twitter, about the variant labelled B.1.1.529. Concerns among disease experts stem from the variant’s […]

WTO’s big conference postponed due to new Covid variant

by Agnès PEDRERO Next week’s World Trade Organization ministerial conference, the global trade body’s biggest gathering in four years, was postponed at the last minute Friday due to the new Omicron Covid-19 variant. The WTO hoped the four-day gathering in Geneva would breathe new life into the crippled organisation, which has been stuck for years trying to make progress on resolving issues like fishery subsidies. New director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was also hoping, against the odds, […]

Omicron variant poses ‘high to very high’ risk to Europe: EU health agency

The new Covid variant, dubbed Omicron and originally detected in South Africa, poses a “high to very high” risk to Europe, the EU health agency warned on Friday. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) noted in a threat assessment report that there was still “considerable uncertainty related to the transmissibility, vaccine effectiveness, risk for reinfections and other properties of the Omicron variant.” However, the overall risk that Omicron posed to the European […]

Three killed in Solomon Islands unrest

The bodies of three people have been discovered in a burnt-out building in the Solomon Islands capital Honiara, police said Saturday, the first reported deaths after days of rioting. The charred bodies were discovered in a store in the Chinatown district of Honiara, with a security guard telling AFP he found the bodies in two rooms late Friday. Police said forensic teams had launched an investigation and were still on the scene but that the […]

B.1.1.529 declared Covid ‘variant of concern’, renamed Omicron

  The World Health Organization on Friday declared the recently-discovered B.1.1.529 strain of Covid-19, first detected in southern Africa, to be a variant of concern and renamed it Omicron. The classification puts Omicron into the most-troubling category of Covid-19 variants, along with the globally-dominant Delta, plus its weaker rivals Alpha, Beta and Gamma. Nations rushed to ban flights to slow the spread of Omicron on Friday, while stock markets and oil prices plunged on fears […]

Israel finds case of Covid strain first detected in South Africa

JERUSALEM, Israel (AFP) — Israel has identified a case of a Covid-19 variant with a large number of mutations first detected in South Africa, the health ministry said Friday. “The variant discovered in southern African states has been identified in Israel,” the ministry said, adding it was recorded “in a person who returned from Malawi”. Two more cases were detected in “people returning from abroad”, it said, adding that they had been placed in quarantine. […]