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Omicron variant identified in 38 countries, IMF worried about growth

Progress seems inevitable. An ever-increasing number of countries were reporting cases of the variant coronavirus Omicron who, even if the WHO says it has no knowledge of fatal cases at this time, worries to the point that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is considering revising its global growth forecasts.

More than a week after the announcement by South Africa of its discovery, this new variant has been identified in 38 countries and is causing a wave of panic on the planet, pushing many countries to tighten their health measures but also to close their borders. By spreading so quickly, Omicron “may shake confidence” and “possibly cause downward revisions to our October projections for global growth,” IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said on Friday.

At the same time, the Covid-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc in some countries: according to its statistical agency, Russia recorded nearly 75,000 deaths in October alone, the deadliest to date in the country. of 145 million inhabitants since the start of the pandemic which has killed a total of 520,000 people there.

12 cases in France, 109 in Europe

Across the European Economic Area (European Union plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein), 109 cases were recorded on Friday at midday, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

In France, 12 cases have been identified, according to health authorities, the United States counting for their part 10 in total, including two concerning patients who have not traveled abroad, a sign that transmissions are now also local .

Australia for its part announced Friday three first cases in Sidney, despite the ban on foreigners from entering its territory and restrictions on flights to southern Africa. Spain also detected its first case of local contamination, a 62-year-old vaccinated man having made no trip. Tunisia and Mexico announced their first cases on Friday.

In October, the IMF had already revised down its forecast for global GDP growth to 5.9% this year, due in particular to uneven vaccination across the world. According to UN statistics, around 65% of people in more developed countries have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, compared to only 7% in less developed countries

The emergence of the variant is “the ultimate proof” of the danger of inequalities, the president of the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), Francesco Rocca, told AFP, recalling the threat of seeing “very new variants. in places where the vaccination rate is very low ”.

Many unknowns

If the new variant seems extremely contagious, a spokesperson for the World Health Organization (WHO), Christian Lindmeier, explained Friday that he had not received “any information reporting deaths linked to Omicron”.

With more and more countries testing for the new variant, “we’ll have more cases, more information, and – although I hope not – possibly deaths,” he said.

The WHO considers it “probable” that the variant spreads globally, especially since, according to a South African study, the risk of catching Covid-19 again is three times more important with Omicron than with the Beta and Delta variants.

In South Africa, the new variant is already dominant and health authorities have reported a peak in infections in children, without it being known for the moment whether it is linked to Omicron.

New cascading restrictions

Never has a variant of Covid-19 caused such panic since the emergence of Delta, currently dominant and already very contagious. Around the world, announcements of drastic measures and travel restrictions are increasing.

After Austria, Germany is moving towards compulsory vaccination, a law in this direction to be examined by the Parliament by the end of the year. The Irish government announced new restrictions on Friday evening, including the closure of nightclubs from December 7 to January 9, while Greece shortened the deadlines to obtain a third dose.

Switzerland will abolish the mandatory quarantine at the entrance of the country for those vaccinated on Saturday, but will tighten the testing requirements. In Asia, in the wake of Singapore’s announcement of two cases, Malaysia and Sri Lanka reported their first cases on Friday, each time from travelers returning from Africa.

Various laboratories, including Moderna, AstraZeneca, Pfizer / BioNTech and Novavax, have expressed confidence in their ability to create a vaccine against Omicron. Russia is also working on a version of its Sputnik V specifically targeting this variant.

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