Coronavirus: Six cases of Omicron variant detected in Scotland

Japan bans entry of foreign visitors due to spread of new variant of virus

Scotland has not found any evidence to suggest that community transmission of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 is either sustained or widespread, after six cases were found in the country, Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.

 

Six cases of the Covid-19 Omicron variant have been identified in Scotland, the Scottish government has announced.

The Scottish government said that four of the Covid-19 Omicron variant cases identified in Scotland are in the Lanarkshire area, with two in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area.

Public Health Scotland and local health protection teams are working together and contact tracing is being undertaken to establish the origin of the virus and any individuals they have come into contact with.

Scotland’s health secretary Humza Yousaf said: “This will be a worrying time for the six people now identified as having the new variant. All will receive expert help and support and Public Health Scotland will undertake enhanced contact tracing in all cases.

“There is still much to learn about the Omicron variant. Questions remain about its severity, transmissibility and response to treatments or vaccines and scientists are working at pace to provide additional information.

“Until more is known we must be cautious and do everything we can to minimise the risk of spreading infection.”

It comes as cases were detected across the continent as 13 cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant have been identified among team members of a professional football club, Portuguese health authorities said.

The Ricardo Jorge National Health Institute said that one of those who tested positive is a player from the Lisbon-based Belenenses club who had recently travelled to South Africa, where the Omicron variant was first identified.

The others, however, had not travelled to South Africa, indicating that this may be one of the very first cases of local transmission of the virus outside of southern Africa.

Those who have been in contact with the positive cases have been ordered to isolate, regardless of their vaccination status or their exposure to possible contagion, and will be regularly tested for Covid-19, the institute said.

Portugal also found two positive coronavirus cases when it screened 218 passengers who arrived in a flight to Lisbon from the capital of Mozambique on Saturday.

One of the cases was the Delta variant and the other one could not be established, authorities said.

The first probable case of the Omicron variant was detected in Switzerland, the government said late on Sunday, as the country tightened its entry restrictions to check its spread.

The case relates to a person who returned to Switzerland from South Africa around a week ago, the Federal Office for Public Health said on Twitter.

Testing will clarify the situation in the coming days, it added.

Switzerland has ordered that travellers from 19 countries must present a negative test when boarding a fight to the country, and must go into quarantine for 10 days on arrival.

The list includes Australia, Denmark, Britain, Czech Republic, South Africa and Israel.

Japan

Meanwhile, Japan has announced it will suspend entry of all foreign visitors due to the spread of the new coronavirus variant Omicron.

Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida said the measure will take effect on Tuesday.

The decision means Japan will restore border controls that it eased earlier this month for short-term business visitors, foreign students and workers.

Over the weekend, Japan tightened entry restrictions for people arriving from South Africa and eight other countries, requiring them to undergo a 10-day quarantine period at government-designated facilities.

Many countries have moved to tighten their borders after the new variant was found in a number of nations.

Omicron was identified days ago by researchers in South Africa and much is still not known about it, including whether it is more contagious, more likely to cause serious illness or more able to evade the protection of vaccines.

But many countries rushed to act, reflecting anxiety about anything that could prolong the pandemic that has killed more than five million people.

Japan has not detected any Omicron cases so far. One traveller from Namibia was found to be positive for the coronavirus, and further tests were being conducted to find out if it was from the new variant, Health Minister Shigeyuki Goto said in a separate press conference. Nations around the world have enacted various border curbs since the WHO dubbed

Omicron a “variant of concern.” But until Mr Kishida’s announcement, Israel had been the only country to ban all foreigners. – AP/Reuters