The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Monday that the heavily mutated Omicron coronavirus variant is likely to spread internationally and poses a very high risk of infection surges that could have severe consequences in some places, according to Reuters.
By now, I’m sure you’ve heard of the newly discovered COVID-19 variant, named Omicron was first reported on November 24 in South Africa and has now been detected in EU countries such as Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, along with Australia, Botswana, Britain, Hong Kong and Israel.
The Omicron variant is likely to spread internationally, posing a "very high" global risk where COVID-19 surges could have "severe consequences" in some areas, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday.
The U.N. agency, in technical advice to its 194 member states, urged them to accelerate vaccination of high-priority groups and to "ensure mitigation plans are in place" to maintain essential health services.
Further research is needed to better understand Omicron's potential to escape protection against immunity induced by vaccines and previous infections, it said, adding that more data was expected in coming weeks.
"COVID -19 cases and infections are expected in vaccinated persons, albeit in a small and predictable proportion" it added.
"In Qatar, we are tracking infected cases but so far no case of new variant Omicron is detected in the country," said Director of the Department of Health Protection and Communicable Disease Control at the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), Dr. Hamad Al Rumaihi. Speaking in an Al Rayan TV programme yesterday, Al Rumaihi said that the preliminary information suggested that the new variant is strong as its spreads quickly.
"So far, over 10 countries have confirmed cases of Omicron variant. It is expected that more cases will be detected in the coming period" said Dr. Al Rumaihi.
Due to the recent emergence of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant, and with immediate effect, Qatar Airways will no longer be accepting passengers travelling from five Southern African countries in its global network. However, Qatar Airways will continue to accept passengers for travel into these countries in-line with current restrictions.
Passengers who have booked Qatar Airways flights from seven destinations mentioned below will not be accepted for travel until further notice:
1. Luanda (LAD), Angola
2. Maputo (MPM), Mozambique
3. Johannesburg (JNB), South Africa
4. Capetown (CPT), South Africa
5. Durban (DUR), South Africa
6. Lusaka (LUN), Zambia
7. Harare (HRE), Zimbabwe
These restrictions will remain in place until they receive further guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO). They will continue to review the situation on a daily basis as new information becomes available, as per Qatar Airways.