The spread of the newly discovered omicron variant of the coronavirus is causing concern around the world. In order to discuss the current developments, Great Britain has called an unscheduled meeting of the health ministers of the leading western economies (G7) for Monday. A result of the deliberations was not yet available at the time this issue went to press.
In the meantime, as in Germany, cases of the variant have emerged in a number of countries. Israel, Canada, Denmark, Belgium, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Italy, among others, reported cases of the corona variant classified as worrying by the WHO.
A third case was identified in the UK on Monday and dozen more were treated as suspected cases, reports the Financial Times (FT). Six Omicron cases have been identified in Scotland. The contact persons of the persons concerned would now be determined and would have to isolate themselves for ten days, said the Scottish health authority Public Health Scotland on Monday.
The London government has mandated the wearing of masks for shops and public transport in England, and people entering the UK must have a PCR test within two days of their arrival and self-isolate until they get a negative result .
The USA, the EU, Great Britain, Australia, Canada, Saudi Arabia and South Korea have either closed their borders for travelers or ordered quarantine for travelers to or from Africa. Singapore and India are reviewing whether they are taking similar action. Switzerland has also restricted travel to non-African countries where cases have been identified.
Israel is the first country to close its borders to foreigners after one confirmed case and several other suspected cases emerged. Returnees are quarantined under the supervision of the army and the Shin Bet domestic secret service if they are suspected. Foreigners have to go to one of the two government-operated quarantine hotels in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem and are only allowed to end the quarantine after negative PCR tests. The deadlines are different for vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Anyone who evades the mandatory test must expect severe penalties.
In the Netherlands, a couple fled a quarantine hotel for travelers from South Africa who tested positive for Corona. The border police at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol arrested the man from Spain and the woman from Portugal on Sunday evening on a plane that was supposed to take off for Spain.
How the couple escaped from the quarantine hotel near the airport is a mystery, said a spokesman for the border police, according to the broadcaster NOS. “Various units ensure that no one gets into the hotel or out, including the border police.” According to the police, it is also unclear how the two of them were able to get on the plane. After their arrest, they were handed over to the Dutch health authorities and put back into quarantine.
The police filed a complaint for violating the statutory quarantine obligation. The public prosecutor’s office must now decide on criminal proceedings for endangering public safety, the spokesman said.
Corona infections were found in 61 of 624 passengers who entered from South Africa on Friday at Amsterdam Airport. Those affected were taken to the quarantine hotel. On Sunday, the state health service RIVM announced that at least 13 of the 61 people who tested positive were infected with the new Omikron coronavirus variant. It was initially unclear whether the escaped couple was also infected with this highly contagious variant.
Belgium had already ordered a three-week “lockdown light” before the appearance of the Omikron variant: “We have to admit that we were surprised by the virus and the situation is much more serious than it was a few weeks ago,” said Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo on Friday. De Croo added that “the pressure on our hospitals is increasing and this situation is unsustainable”.
In Belgium, life will be restricted in various ways over the next three weeks. Night clubs are closing and indoor concerts that do not have seats will be canceled. This measure took effect on Monday. Bars, restaurants and night shops must close at 11 p.m. The number of people at one table in restaurants is limited to six, except for families. Private celebrations are prohibited, with the exception of weddings and funerals. However, it is still allowed to receive guests at home. (with dpa and AFP)