Covid live updates today: Omicron variant, symptoms, vaccine efficacy, restrictions...

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Covid live updates today: Omicron variant, symptoms, vaccine efficacy, restrictions...

Covid Omicron variant: latest news

Headlines

World Health Organization (WHO) says more data needed to confirm 'higher risk' Omicron

- WHO says it expects to have more information on transmissibility "within days"

- Biden administration has announced a travel ban from eight African countries

- Most public health experts believe Omicron is already circulating in the United States

- Doctor who identified Omicron plays down "hype" over variant

- CDC to order airlines to hand over names of passengers from southern Africa

- EU Commission chief Von der Leyen says mandatory vaccination in bloc "needs discussion"

- SA expert says current vaccines "likely effective" against Omicron

- Cases in Scotland believed to be "circulating within community" as Omicron spreads to four continents

Omicron restrictions in the US

Travel banned from the following countries:

- Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe

Related news articles:

COVID-19

How many Covid-19 variants have been there besides Omicron? what are their differences?

Viruses are constantly mutating as they reproduce inside a host trying to become more efficient at spreading to new ones while evading immune system defenses. The original strain of covid-19 has gone through a similar process.

Not all of these new iterations are as effective as the previous, but some have developed to replace the original strain of the novel virus identified in December 2019 as “SARS-CoV-2”, or better known as covid-19. Since it was first discovered in Wuhan, China, several variants of the virus have been identified around the globe but only 13 have received a simplified name to aid health officials in explaining the new variant to the public, and how it is different from prior versions.

Read more.

Firstcase of Omicron variant in the US

A person in California is the first in the US to have an identified case of the covid-19 Omicron variant, the White House announced as scientists continue to study the risks posed by the new strain of the virus.

WHO expects to have more information on Omicron transmissilibity "within days" - Van Kerkhove

The World Health Organization's technical lead on covid-19, Maria van Kerkhove, says the body expects to know more about the transmissibility of the Omicron variant "within days".

It’s still very early days in terms of our understanding of this variant, and we’re grateful for the information that’s coming in daily," Van Kerkhove told a media briefing on Wednesday.

"We don’t have all the information on transmission, in terms of if […] it’s more transmissible. There is some suggestion of that, but again it’s early days.

"We expect to have more information on transmission within days - not necessarily weeks, but in days."

More on CDC order over airline passenger data collection

Reuters has offered more details on its earlier report that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is ordering airlines to provide the names of passengers who have been in the eight southern African countries subject to travel restrictions in the US.

According to the CDC order, which Reuters says it has had access to, airlines must hand over details of all passengers who have been in any of Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe in the last 14 days.

Per Reuters, the CDC says it "will provide the contact information of these passengers to jurisdictional state and local public health partners for public health follow-up. This follow-up may include recommendations for potential postarrival viral testing and quarantine and isolation.”

CDC orders airlines to give names of passengers who've been in southern Africa

Reuters now reports that it has had access to an order issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) directing all airlines to hand over the names of all passengers who have been in any of the eight southern African countries currently subject to travel restrictions in the US.

Omicron: an epidemiology expert's view

If you've not yet had enough of experts, and prefer listening to those who have spent years studying their chosen field rather than reading posts on your second aunt's Facebook page, then we'll continue to bring you as much of that as possible in our daily blog.

More covid conspiracies

A series of fear-mongering videos were circulated on social media with unsubstantiated and false claims. Snopes investigated...

While this video shows real incidents from 2021, none of these incidents has been connected to the covid-19 vaccine, other plausible explanations (such as dehydration or heat exhaustion) have been offered for these incidents, and a few of the clips in this video show athletes who were not vaccinated.

There is no evidence that the covid-19 vaccine has resulted in an increase in fainting incidents. 

'Moronic' Omicron claims

Just a few days ago the World Health Organization classified a new coronavirus variant as one of concern. It was assigned the name Omicron, following on from the decision in May to use the Greek alphabet rather than the more scientific numbers and letters that were harder to remember.

But now that we've reached this point in the naming process, the anagram 'moronic' is being used to drive more conspiracy theories, oh, and to try and sell comic books to those gullible enough to fall into the trap.

Be patient until we know more about Omicron

One reason for concern about Omicron is that sequenced samples indicate it has rapidly replaced other variants in South Africa. But that picture might be skewed. For one, sequencing might have been focused on possible cases of the new variant in recent days, which could make it appear more frequent than it is. PCR data provide broader coverage and a less biased view, but there, too, samples with the S gene failure indicate a rapid rise of Omicron.

But the rising frequency could still be due in part to chance.

In San Diego, a series of super-spreading events at a university resulted in an explosion of one particular strain of SARS-CoV-2 earlier this year, Kristian Andersen, an infectious disease researcher at Scripps Research, says: “It was thousands of cases and they were all the same virus.”

But the virus wasn’t notably more infectious. South Africa has seen relatively few cases recently, so a series of super-spreading events could have led to the rapid increase of Omicron.

“I suspect that a lot of that signal is explained by that and I desperately hope so,” Andersen adds. Based on a comparison of different Omicron genomes, Andersen estimates the virus emerged sometime around late September or early October, which suggests it might be spreading more slowly than it appears to have.

Unvaccinated makes about 90% of hospitalized

"We're seeing younger patients and we're seeing milder cases of Omicron...

"The people that are being hospitalized are largely unvaccinated, about 90% of those are unvaccinated."

South African doctor Dr. Mvuyisi Mzukwa assesses the new variant.

Ghana detects first Omicron case

As we continue to keep an eye on what is happening around the globe, Ghana's health ministry has now confirmed that it has detected the country's first cases of the Omicron covid-19 variant on passengers who arrived at Accra international airport following sequencing carried out on 21 November.

Officials have so far declined to specify how many positive cases were detected when the samples were sequenced on that day.

Health Service director general Patrick Kuma-Aboagye said that the case originated from Nigeria and South Africa.

"The good thing is that among the community tests we've done so far, we haven't seen any Omicron within the community of Ghana," Kuma-Aboagye said during a vaccination awareness event earlier.

"The danger is if someone has Omicron and is incubating, it would not be found at the airport, so we still have to be extremely careful," he added.

December is Ghana's most important tourism month and officials expect an influx of visitors from countries that have already detected the new variant.

Mandatory vaccination in EU "needs discussion" - Von der Leyen

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the EU Commission, says mandatory vaccination in the bloc “needs discussion” amid the spread of the Omicron variant of covid-19.

"We have the vaccines, the life-saving vaccines, but they are not being used adequately everywhere,” Von der Leyen said on Wednesday.

She added: “How we can encourage and potentially think about mandatory vaccination within the European Union? This needs discussion. This needs a common approach.”

In Greece, a monthly 100-euro fine has been introduced for over-60s who fail to get vaccinated.

Norway confirms first two Omicron cases

Norway has identified its first two cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant, the west coast municipality of Oeygarden said on Wednesday.

The two people who were infected had been on a trip to South Africa. Both of them were currently recovering from the infection, mayor Tom Georg Indrevik said in a statement.

Norway on Friday decided to impose a quarantine on any travellers arriving from South Africa or neighbouring countries, following a similar decision by neighbouring Denmark and many other countries around the world.

(Reuters)

CORONAVIRUS

Omicorn: global tracking of new covid-19 variant

Governments around the world are urgently scouring databases for recent cases of covid-19 infections, screening travellers and decoding the viral genomes of the new variant as they try to measure how far it has spread.

The pace of the work highlights the pressure on governments and public health authorities to decide quickly whether they need to take unpopular, economically damaging steps to curb Omicron's spread.

NBA

LeBron James was put in COVID protocol, but is he vaccinated?

The things about a pandemic is that it pretty much overlaps with every other aspect of life, sport having felt the brunt of it.

In the latest news, NBA superstar LeBron James has been transported from Sacramento to Los Angeles after being put in the covid health and safety protocol. He is expected to miss the next few games and our Dane Arlauckas brings you the full story.

Emergency EU Omicron summit on hold

The European Union has decided against holding a special remote summit of the bloc's leaders on the omicron coronavirus variant for the time being, an official said Wednesday.

The EU's 27 health ministers will first assess the situation next Tuesday before it will be put to the leaders in the Dec. 16 regularly planned summit, an EU official said on condition of anonymity because the meeting hadn't been officially announced.

Chance of dying doubles year after severe covid - study

Patients who survive severe covid are more than twice as likely to die over the following year than those who remain uninfected or experience milder virus symptoms, a study says.

The research, published in Frontiers in Medicine, suggests that serious coronavirus infections may significantly damage long-term health, showing the importance of vaccination.

The increased risk of dying was greater for patients under 65, and only 20% of the severe covid-19 patients who died did so because of typical covid complications, such as respiratory failure.

Sarah Marsh reports on the study for The Guardian.

UK confirms 22 Omicron cases

British Health Secretary Sajid Javid said there were 22 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant of coronavirus in the United Kingdom, and that that figure was set to rise.

Javid added that he expected to know more about the variant within two weeks, as scientists work to understand what impact the new variant will have.

"At this point in time the case numbers are very low," he told Sky News. "For the UK we've got 22 confirmed cases at the moment and that will go up, it will certainly go up."

Biden's new US travel restrictions amid Omicron threat

President Joe Biden will soon announce tighter Covid restrictions for people flying into the United States, including requiring a negative covid test just one day prior to travel, as the world races to confront the new Omicron variant.

Three White House officials confirmed that a tightened testing window, first reported by The Washington Post, is coming. One official said Biden himself will soon announce the new requirements, ahead of another busy holiday travel period looming in mere weeks.

In addition, the officials acknowledged that additional quarantine measures are under consideration but said there are no current plans to implement any.

WHO running out of covid variant letters

There are 24 letters in the Greek alphabet, alpha, beta, gamma, delta, epsilon, zeta, eta, theta, iota, kappa, lambda, mu, nu, xi, omicron, pi, rho, sigma, tau, upsilon, phi, chi, psi, omega. So far there have been 13 variants that have received a letter from the Greek alphabet to make them easier to pronounce due to the need to inform the public about their potential risk and avoid associating them with anyone country. 

Two letters though were skipped over to get to the fifteenth letter Omicron, leaving just nine more and the pandemic not looking likely to go away as soon as everyone would hope.

Germany: four fully vaccinated people infected with Omicron

Four people in southern Germany have tested positive for the Omicron covid-19 variant even though they were fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, the public health office in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg said.

Three of the infected people returned from a business trip to South Africa on 26 Nov and 27 Nov respectively, and the fourth person is a family member of one of the returnees, the state public health office said on Tuesday.

"All four people are fully vaccinated. A mutation analysis carried out by the State Health Office has confirmed that all of them are infected with the new variant of concern," the office said in a statement, adding that all four were in quarantine.

All four showed moderate symptoms.

Global Omicron response: Malaysia

Malaysia has temporarily banned the entry of travellers from countries that have reported the Omicron covid-19 variant or are considered high-risk, its health minister said on Wednesday.

The Southeast Asian nation joins countries around the world that have limited travel from southern Africa, where the variant, believed to be the most contagious yet, was first detected.

The travel ban applies to eight African countries, including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi, but could be extended to other nations where the variant has been detected, such as Britain and the Netherlands, health minister Khairy Jamaluddin said.

Get vaccinated, beat Omicron

The appearance of the Omicron variant has health experts racing to study the new strain to analyze the effectiveness of the current vaccines against it. There are worries that the number of mutations may allow this variant to bypass the immunity givien by the vaccines in use but it is too soon to tell and health officials are recommending caution.

Speaking to Lestor Holt, former acting director of the CDC Dr Richard Besser said "clearly, right now, being vaccinated is the best situation to be in until we have further information."

COVID-19

How many Covid-19 variants have been there besides Omicron? what are their differences?

Countless variants have developed over the nearly two years since covid-19 was first discovered in a cluster of patients in China who were experiencing fever and a shortness of breath. Eventually, those cases were traced back to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan. Despite draconian efforts to contain the novel virus it was already globetrotting, appearing in various nations across the world.

Without a vaccine to slow its march, the novel virus took a devastating toll on populations and new iterations began to appear. The World Health Organization (WHO) was monitoring the new strains as they were identified, classifying the variants whose mutations necessitated greater scrutiny based on possible higher transmissibility or causing more severe disease.

Greg Heilman looks at how the pandemic continues to affect the world.

Canada adds three countries to travel restriction list

Canada have added Nigeria, Malawi, and Egypt to the list of countries from which travellers will be denied access due to the surge in covid-19 Omicron variant cases.

Seven African countries were already on the blacklist, namely, South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, and Eswatini.

WORLD NEWS

Covid-19 omicron variant: what are the symptoms of new strain?

The Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variant has been generating headlines in recent days after the new strain of coronavirus first emerged. Scientists fear that the new variant could pose greater risks to global public health than both the alpha and delta variants and many countries have already started to impose fresh restrictions as governments scramble to prevent the spread of the new threat.

Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association, first alerted national authorities over the discovery of omicron and has also laid out the symptomatology of the new variant, describing them as “unusual, but mild.”

Latin America detects first Omicron cases

Brazil has reported two cases of people who have tested positive for the Omicron variant - the first in Latin America. The patient is a man who had recently returned from a trip to South Africa with his wife.

Brazil has tightened travel restrictions for entering the country.

Omicron vaccines approval within 3-4 months

The European Medicines Agency could authorise revised vaccines to treat the Omicron Covid-19 varient within 3-4 months.

“We need to prepare in case there’s a need to change the current vaccines and that’s work that the companies will do.

"We could be in a position to have those approved within three to four months,” EMA CEO Emer Cooke explained.

Covid-19: Omicron variant live blog - welcome

Hello and welcome to our live feed on the Omicron covid-19 variant on Wednesday 1 December.

The World Health Organization announced that it is classifying Omicron as a 'Variant of Concern' as it drives an alarming surge in cases in South Africa.

Many experts believe the strain is already spreading in the United States and numerous cases have already been identified across Europe and beyond.

We will be bringing you live updates on what we know about the variant so far including if it is more transmissible, new symptoms, as well as information about the newly announced travel ban from various African countries to the US.

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