The health agency of the German state of Hesse has identified the first suspected case of infection with the Omicron strain in the country, a person returning from South Africa.
“The Omicron variant most likely arrived in Germany,” Kai Klose, an official in charge of social affairs in the western German state of Hesse, tweeted today, referring to the newly discovered strain in South Africa. .
According to Klose, tests last night on a person returning from South Africa showed “some typical mutations of Omicron”. “Because of the high level of suspicion, this person has been isolated at home. Full gene sequencing is being completed,” the official added.
The plane carrying this Covid-19 case landed at Frankfurt International Airport, the busiest place in Germany. The suspected case of the Omicron strain comes as Germany, the most populous country in the European Union (EU), is grappling with a severe outbreak.
Belgium also previously detected the first case of the Omicron strain in Europe, in an unvaccinated person returning from abroad. Leading Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst tweeted that this person returned from Egypt on 11/11.
The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies Omicron as a worrisome variant due to its higher infectivity than Delta. Omicron was first reported in South Africa, several other infections were also recorded in Botswana, Belgium, Israel and Hong Kong special administrative region of China.
Scientists are racing to determine the threat posed by the Omicron strain and whether current Covid-19 vaccines need to be adjusted. According to the South African Ministry of Health, preliminary studies suggest that the new strain may be more infectious, but the current vaccine is still effective in preventing serious cases.
The new strain was discovered in the context of Europe struggling with an increase in Covid-19 cases, when the continent once again became the epicenter of the outbreak. EU health authorities say the continent is at “high to very high” risk from the new strain.
EU officials yesterday unanimously called on all 27 countries in the bloc to restrict travel from several southern African countries.
Huyen Le (Follow AFP)