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December 6, 2021
THE NETHERLANDS, SOUTH AFRICA: Several European nations on Saturday announced their first cases of a highly infectious new 'Omicron' coronavirus strain which the World Health Organization has termed a "variant of concern". Governments worldwide began pulling down the shutters to contain the new Omicron variant.
Britain, Germany and Italy confirmed their first cases of the new COVID-19 strain, while Dutch authorities quarantined 61 passengers from South Africa who tested positive for COVID-19.
Scientists are racing to determine the threat posed by the heavily mutated strain, particularly whether it can evade existing vaccines. It has already proved to be more transmissible than the dominant Delta variant.
The main countries targeted by the shutdown include South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini (Swaziland), Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. But US Secretary of State Antony Blinken "praised South Africa's scientists for the quick identification of the Omicron variant and South Africa's government for its transparency in sharing this information, which should serve as a model for the world", a State Department statement said.
Biden said richer countries should donate more COVID-19 vaccines and give up intellectual property protections to manufacture more doses worldwide.EU officials agreed in an emergency meeting to urge all 27 nations in the bloc to restrict travel from southern Africa. Many members had already done so.
The World Trade Organization called off a ministerial conference, its biggest gathering in four years, at the last minute Friday due to the new variant. Meanwhile, The new Omicron variant of the coronavirus results in mild disease, without prominent syndromes, Angelique Coetzee, the chairwoman of the South African Medical Association, told Sputnik on Saturday.
The World Health Organization (WHO) identified on Friday the new South African strain as one of concern, as it is reported to carry a high number of mutations -- 32 -- which possibly makes it more transmissible and dangerous. The WHO has dubbed it Omicron, the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet.