In response to the emergence of the omicron coronavirus variant, many countries are introducing or considering additional restrictions. In France, everyone, even those who are vaccinated, will be quarantined after exposure to the new variant. Great Britain tightens the rules of epidemic control, Switzerland imposes restrictions on travelers. Calls for COVID-19 vaccines are also growing. Germany does not rule out introducing restrictions for the unvaccinated. – Germany is in a crisis situation – assessed the head of the local Robert Koch Institute.
Anyone who has come into contact with a confirmed or potential case of infection with the new omicron coronavirus variant will have to undergo quarantine, even if they are vaccinated against COVID-19, the French health ministry said on Saturday. According to the rules in force in this country so far, if a person has contact with a person infected with the coronavirus, he should isolate himself for seven days only if he is not vaccinated, not fully vaccinated and / or if he has reduced immunity.
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No case of a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 has been confirmed in France.
Great Britain introduces additional restrictions. PCR tests for visitors and mandatory isolation
The UK government also reacted to the detection of further cases of the new variant of the coronavirus, which on Saturday announced new restrictions to slow down the spread of the omicron variant.
– Anyone crossing the UK border will be required to perform a PCR test by the end of the second day after arrival. Until negative, these people will have to self-isolate, announced Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a press conference in London. In addition, people contacting the infected will also have to undergo a ten-day quarantine. The head of the British government also announced tightening the rules on wearing masks and accelerating the booster vaccination campaign.
Chris Whitty, the chief doctor of England, who attended a press conference with the prime minister, assessed that concerns about the lower effectiveness of vaccines in case of infection with the omicron variant are justified.
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The first two cases of the new coronavirus variant were identified in the UK on Saturday. Earlier on Thursday evening, the government decided to close the borders to non-nationals arriving from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe. On Sunday, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola will be added to this list. British citizens arriving from there will be required to undergo a ten-day quarantine at a hotel specified by the government.
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Germany does not rule out restrictions for those unvaccinated against COVID-19
German Health Minister Jens Spahn has not ruled out the introduction of long-term restrictions in the country for people unvaccinated against COVID-19.
Spahn admitted that he is “fundamentally skeptical” about the idea of introducing compulsory vaccination against COVID19. As an alternative solution worth considering, he indicated the introduction of the so-called 2G principle in all areas of social life, i.e. access to places and services only for vaccinated and convalescents, which would apply throughout 2022.
He explained that in such a case, the unvaccinated person “would only be able to go to the supermarket or the office”.
– We can all see what is happening in the country, because 11 million adults could not be persuaded [do szczepień – red.]and now we all suffer from it, said Spahn. He said that “Germany is probably at its most difficult, dramatic moment in this pandemic.” – It is enough to see what is happening in hospitals in Saxony, Bavaria, Thuringia, Baden-Württemberg and many others – he pointed out.
He noted that the dynamics of vaccination had increased, and over the past week, nearly 450,000 people decided to take the first dose of the vaccine. – However, it is still definitely not enough – argued the minister.
“Germany is in a crisis and the solution is to vaccinate”
Spahn also referred to the work of the Bundeswehr’s air force, which on Friday participated for the first time in a nationwide operation to transport seriously ill COVID-19 patients from more stressed regions. They were mainly transported from Bavaria, where there were no beds available for patients suffering from coronavirus in intensive care units. – Hopefully, this situation will be a wake-up call for many and make them decide to vaccinate, said the German Minister of Health.
The head of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Lothar Wieler, said that if a sufficiently large proportion of the population is not vaccinated against COVID-19, universal compulsory vaccination “will become an option to think about.” – Germany is in a crisis and the solution is to vaccinate. As a rule, nothing should be ruled out in a crisis situation, he added.
Wieler pointed out that to break the fourth wave of infections it is necessary to limit contacts, including the cancellation of mass events, and to “close the vaccination gap” as soon as possible. It also indicated the importance of a booster vaccination.
However, he reassured that “when it comes to cellular immunity in particular, I am of the opinion that it will also work for the omicron”. – We are optimists, [uważamy – red.] that with this new variant of the virus, vaccinated people do not start from scratch, said the head of the RKI.
Omicron in the USA? Fauci: Although we haven’t detected him yet, I wouldn’t be surprised
White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said on Saturday that a new variant of the coronavirus omicron is likely already present in the United States. “Although we haven’t detected it yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was already in the US,” said Fauci, quoted by Bloomberg. He added that “in view of the high spreadability of the variant, it will spread all over the world sooner or later.”
– In South Africa, omicron appears to have spread quite quickly. Its ability to infect people who have already had COVID-19 and even those who have been vaccinated means we need to prepare for something serious, he said.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of State on Saturday advised US citizens not to travel to South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi, Lesotho, Eswatini and Botswana. On the other hand, the President of the United States, Joe Biden, announced on Friday that due to the emergence of the new variant, he decided to temporarily close the US borders to travelers from South Africa and seven other countries from South Africa. This travel ban is expected to enter into force on Monday.
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Switzerland places restrictions on travelers
Switzerland has also taken steps to contain the spread of the new variant coronavirus.
Already on Friday, it banned direct flights from South Africa and other countries in the region, and imposed restrictions on travel from other countries, including Hong Kong, Israel and Belgium. Entry from these countries would be possible only for Swiss nationals or people with a residence permit in Switzerland or the Schengen area.
On Saturday, it was decided that travelers from the UK, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Egypt and Malawi would have to test negative for COVID-19 and undergo a 10-day quarantine for ten days, the Federal Office of Public Health said on Twitter. He did not specify whether travel from these countries would also be restricted to Swiss citizens and residents.
The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization wants fairer dose distribution
Seth Barkley, director general of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (Gavi), recognized that to avoid the emergence of new variants of the coronavirus, a fairer distribution of vaccines between rich and poor countries was necessary. As long as a large proportion of the world’s population remains unvaccinated, new variants will emerge and the pandemic will develop. We will only avoid this if we are able to protect everyone, not just the richest parts of the world, said the epidemiologist in an interview with the Reuters agency.
Only 3 percent. residents of countries with a per capita national income of less than $ 1,025 have been fully vaccinated. In the case of countries with middle or high income, this ratio is 60%. – reminds the daily “The Guardian”. As reported, in South Africa, where the omicron variant was first reported on November 24, it is 27 percent. residents.
The daily added that “for every first dose in the poorest countries, there are six booster doses given in the richest countries.”
Main photo source: PAP / EPA / PHILIPP GUELLAND