Governments choose not to wait for the scientists to diagnose and rush to shield their territories from the strain. The G7 calls an emergency meeting
The panic generated by the omicron variant of the coronavirus has already reached the entire planet. Despite the fact that the confirmed cases have not yet reached even a hundred and none of them present a symptomatology that can be considered serious, governments around the planet have chosen to close, in one way or another, their borders by introducing of limits or prohibitions on travel from the southern African cone, where strain B.1.1.529 first appeared.
Politicians have not wanted to wait for the diagnoses of scientists, who have launched a race against time to learn more about Ómicron. They claim two or three weeks because it has not yet been shown to be more virulent or more resistant to the protection provided by vaccines. And they even stress that shielding is not a useful measure. However, impatience dominates all government headquarters. The more than five million deaths worldwide since the pandemic was declared in 2019 are too heavy to take it easy.
Uncertainty and the low probability that scientists will advance quickly has led countries around the world to bet on a security approach, knowing that previous outbreaks of the pandemic have been driven in part by lax border policies.
The EU was the first to react when a case was detected on its territory on Friday, specifically in Belgium. This immediately prompted the United States to follow in their footsteps. The prestigious Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Biden Administration’s leading expert on infectious diseases, said he would not be surprised if the variant is already in the United States. “We have not detected it yet, but when a virus shows this degree of transmission, it is almost always going to end up spreading everywhere,” he said.
His words were instantly echoed and this Sunday the state of New York declared a State of Emergency as an exceptional measure. It was determined without delay by the governor, the Democrat Kathy Hochul, who also appealed to the population to wear masks, get vaccinated and receive booster doses.
The Israeli government, which has closed the country for two weeks, has even turned to the intelligence and general internal security services, the Shin Bet, to track those infected. The measure, much discussed by the opposition, has immediately borne fruit with the detection of a case and the location of another eight hundred people who could have been exposed to Ómicron.
It also wants to implement the obligation that citizens from any country, including those vaccinated, serve three days of isolation after their return. In addition, they will undergo a PCR test at the airport and will have to take another test three days later. Only after the negative can they come out of isolation. In the case of those not vaccinated, all the terms are extended.
In Australia, the authorities announced the detection of the strain in two vaccinated passengers who were returning from southern Africa and had arrived in Sydney on the same day that the borders with nine countries in the south of the black continent were closed. Twelve occupants of the same flight are in quarantine. The Philippines, for its part, announced the cancellation of flights from areas where the variant has been detected and Saudi Arabia extended the list of countries with which it suspends flights to 14 African destinations. Kuwait and Qatar – a major air hub – also approved restrictions with African states.
The British government, in charge of the rotating presidency of the G7, announced this Sunday the convening of an “emergency meeting” of its health ministers to address the issue of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
“An emergency meeting of G7 health ministers will be convened on Monday 29 November to discuss developments on omicron,” the UK Health Department said in a statement.
WHO doubts the effectiveness of the flight restriction
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Sunday showed its rejection of the flight limitations imposed worldwide on flights from southern Africa and urged governments to reopen their borders. “Travel restrictions can play a role in slightly reducing the spread of covid, but they place a great burden on lives and livelihoods,” the United Nations body said in a press release. The WHO recalls that South Africa has complied with the provisions of the regulations and that it reported the variant as soon as it became aware of it on November 24.
In the same vein, the president of the South African Medical Association and one of the discoveries of Ómicron, Dr. Angelique Coetzee, claimed this Sunday that there should be no “unnecessary alarm” before this new variant, whose symptoms are, according to the data that shuffles at the moment, “very weak.” “For us they are mild cases,” he told the BBC.
This Sunday it was also known that the omicron variant presents many more mutations than the delta strain, according to a first three-dimensional image made and published by the Bambino Gesù hospital in Rome. “It looks good especially in an area of the protein that interacts with human cells,” explained the team of researchers in a statement published yesterday. “This does not automatically mean that they are more dangerous, simply that the virus has once again adapted to the human species, generating another variant,” they specified.