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Border closures, new restrictions… Part of the world is withdrawing from the Omicron variant

It is a wind of panic which is gaining a large number of countries since the detection, a few days ago, in South Africa, of a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, B.1.1.529, classified as “worrying. By the World Health Organization (WHO) and named Omicron.

Everything is still unknown about its contagiousness or virulence, and it will take several weeks to establish the complete identity card of this new protagonist of the Covid-19 pandemic. On the other hand, the signals of its propagation multiply. Botswana, Hong Kong, Belgium, United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Canada… the discoveries of cases, suspected or confirmed, follow one another hour by hour.

Read also Article reserved for our subscribers Coronavirus: unknowns and concerns around the new Omicron variant

France was quick to join the list of countries potentially affected by this variant, eight cases “Possible” having been spotted Sunday evening November 28 and to be confirmed by a sequencing which could take several days.

Despite repeated warnings from the WHO against border closures, deemed ineffective for a variant that is already circulating, many states have suspended their air links with southern Africa, where the first cases of Omicron have been identified. South Africa estimated itself unfairly ” punished “ by these measurements, arguing that his sequencing work had made it possible to characterize this variant. The United States paid tribute to Pretoria on Saturday evening for its “Transparency in the sharing of this information, which should serve as a model”… While closing borders to travelers from South Africa and seven other countries in the region.

Passengers wait for flight confirmation outside the Swissport counter at Johannesburg Airport, South Africa on November 28, 2021.

Feverishness in Europe

Faced with the unknowns of this new variant, some states have taken spectacular measures, such as Morocco, which is suspending for two weeks all international flights to its airports as of Tuesday, repatriations can nevertheless be organized on a case-by-case basis with embassies. A decision justified by the will of ” preserve the gains made by Morocco in the fight against the pandemic ”, assured Rabat.

Israel, where two cases have been detected and a dozen others are suspected, also opted for the hard way: on Saturday evening, the interministerial cabinet in charge of Covid-19 locked the borders, which had not been reopened until the 1is November after more than eighteen months of closure. According to experts, the country, where vaccination has been very rapid and well monitored, should be able to contain the expansion of the new variant. “But we learned our lessons from April, when we weren’t careful enough with the Delta variant”, says Nadav Davidovich, member of the government expert council.

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