Coronavirus worldwide: couple arrested in Netherlands after quarantine escape, South African president criticizes travel restrictions

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More than 261 million people have tested positive for the virus worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 5.1 million infected people have died. About 7.6 billion vaccine doses have been administered worldwide.

The latest developments
Dutch police have arrested a couple after they escaped from a quarantine hotel. The two were caught Sunday (Nov. 29)on a plane that was scheduled to take off for Spain, authorities said. The couple had escaped from a hotel where travelers from South Africa who tested positive for Corona were staying. Some of the people were also found to have the new Omicron variant. After the arrest, the couple was again quarantined. Authorities have now initiated legal action for “endangering public safety.”

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has criticized travel restrictions imposed by numerous countries against southern African countries as unjustified. “These restrictions are unfair discrimination against our country and our sister states,” Ramaphosa said in a televised address Sunday night (Nov. 28). He said it was a clear departure from the declaration at the G-20 summit in Rome to help underdeveloped nations cope with the impact of the pandemic on their economies. The restrictions only increased the damage already done to economies in southern Africa, particularly in tourism, Ramaphosa said, appealing to those states that had adopted travel restrictions to reconsider their decision “before they do more damage.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) is urging caution about the Omicron variant. Two South African health experts, including the doctor who first raised the alarm about the Omicron variant, had previously pointed out that symptoms associated with the coronavirus had so far been mild. However, the WHO had classified the new variant from South Africa, “Omicron,” as a cause for concern. The WHO’s naming of the new discovery follows the letters of the Greek alphabet, which is intended to give the variants easy-to-pronounce names that do not carry stigma. What we know about the variant.

Canada confirms two cases of the Omicron variant. The two individuals had recently traveled to Nigeria, the Ontario government announced Sunday (Nov. 28). Meanwhile, the French Health Ministry reported eight possible cases of the Omicron variant. In a statement, it said the suspected infected individuals had traveled to France from southern Africa. It will take several more days to fully confirm the cases, it said. Earlier, thirteen cases of the Omicron variant have been confirmed in the Netherlands. They were all aboard a flight from South Africa during the week. On Sunday, Denmark and Australia also recorded two cases each. Several cases of the new coronavirus variant were reported in Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the Czech Republic on Saturday (11/27). Austria reported a first suspected case. On Friday, Belgium became the first country in Europe to detect a case with the new coronavirus variant (B.1.1.529).

Those infected with the new coronavirus variant Omicron in South Africa have not yet become severely ill, according to the medical association there (Sama). Angélique Coetzee, president of the South African Medical Association, told the BBC. However, she said, investigations are still at a very early stage. In South Africa, only about 24 percent of people are fully vaccinated, she said. Symptoms of the new variant, she said, are unusual but mild. She told the Telegraph, however, that there is a need to worry that the new variant could hit older people who also had diabetes or heart disease much harder. Coetzee was reportedly the first South African doctor to alert authorities to patients with a new variant on Nov. 18.

Moderna is testing several solutions against the Omicron variant. There is no need to reinvent the wheel, said Dan Staner, head of Moderna’s European operations, to Blick (Nov. 28). He said the company is currently pushing three ideas. First, it is testing whether the current vaccine will work against the new mutant. In one trial, the usual dose of the mRNA vaccine is being increased from 50 to 100 micrograms of active ingredient. Results here should be available in a few weeks, Staner said. Second, a booster is in development that could be used to preempt mutations. The third line of defense is a booster vaccine specifically against omicron. It takes three to six months for data on such new developments to become available. AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson are also testing the efficacy of their vaccines against the Omicron variant.

  • source: nzz.ch/picture:pixabay.com
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