A new variant of COVID-19, nicknamed Omicron and termed a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organisation for its high transmissibility, has emerged in the United Kingdom, a day after it was detected in Belgium.
Two people in the UK have been found to be infected with the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, the UK government announced on Saturday as it added four more African countries to its travel red list.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) had detected cases in Chelmsford, Essex and in Nottingham.
The cases are said to be linked and the two people were self-isolating alongside their households while more tests and contact tracing take place.
Also, the government said four more countries are being added to the travel ban “red list” from 4 AM on Sunday: Angola, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia. This adds to the six countries on the ban list since Friday—South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia.
Earlier in the day, 61 people in two flights from South Africa to the Netherlands tested positive for COVID-19, with the results being examined to see if they were infected by the new variant. 531 passengers were negative, the Dutch Health Authority said. EU health authorities have said the new strain poses a "high to very high risk" to the continent.
In Bengaluru, two South Africans have tested positive for “regular” COVID-19 and have been quarantined.
Many countries have enacted travel bans on South Africa, prompting its foreign ministry to complain that it was being punished for discovering and alerting the world of the dangerous new variant.
With inputs from PTI