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Omicron variant: WHO recommends over 60s to postpone travel

The World Health Organization this Tuesday, November 30, advised people at risk, including those over 60, to travel, while deeming unnecessary the prohibitions in this area taken by many countries that “Will not prevent” the spread of the novel variant of the Omicron coronavirus.

“General travel bans will not prevent the spread” of this variant which worries the planet, estimated the WHO in a technical document, however recommending that “People who are not in good health or at risk of developing a severe form” of Covid-19 to give up their travel plans.

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A collective response

Faced with what looks like panic, the head of this UN institution, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, had already called this Tuesday to ” calm “ and asked countries for a response “Rational” and “Proportional”.

Including “The concern of all countries to protect their citizens”, he also said to himself “Concerned that several member states are taking general and brutal measures which are neither evidence-based nor effective in themselves and which will only worsen inequalities” Between the countries.

“As long as North-South inequalities persist, the Covid virus will continue to kill and mutate”

Since Johannesburg reported the appearance of this new variant last week, many states have closed their borders to South Africa and its neighbors, sparking anger in the region.

These measures “Can negatively impact global health efforts during a pandemic by discouraging countries from reporting and sharing epidemiological and sequencing data”, has warned the WHO.

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Several months for a vaccine?

At a time when the world is wondering about the answer to be given to this variant with multiple mutations, the leader of the vaccine manufacturer Moderna, Stéphane Bancel, predicted in an interview with the Financial Times a “Significant decrease” the effectiveness of current serums.

Antoine Flahault: “Better to vaccinate the whole of humanity rather than a third dose for all”

According to him, it will take several months to develop a new one. “All the scientists I have spoken to (…) say This is not going to do it, he assures. Various manufacturers, including Moderna, AstraZeneca, Pfizer / BioNTech and Novavax, have nevertheless expressed confidence in their ability to create a new vaccine against Covid-19.

Russia has also announced that it is working on a version of its Sputnik V specifically targeting Omicron. The Covid-19 pandemic has killed at least 5,206,370 since its appearance in late 2019 in China, according to an AFP count.

Outbreak of infection in Europe

Originally reported in South Africa, this new strain has been spotted on all continents, but Europe, facing a new wave, appears to be the continent most affected. In addition to travel suspensions, many states have instituted preventive measures and, for the wealthiest, urged their populations to be injected with a booster dose.

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Ukraine, Hungary, Germany, Netherlands … Europe again the epicenter of the Covid-19 epidemic

Long considered a good student in Europe, but overwhelmed by an outbreak of infections, Germany on Tuesday put on the mat compulsory vaccination, which will be the subject of a law submitted to Parliament before the end of the year. “Too many people have not been vaccinated”, explained the future Chancellor Olaf Scholz to the German television channel Bild TV.

In the United Kingdom, a country among the most bereaved by the pandemic (nearly 145,000 dead), wearing a mask in transport and shops became mandatory again on Tuesday. All arriving travelers must take a PCR test and self-isolate until the result.

Sweden, which had already distinguished itself at the start of the pandemic with lightly coercive measures, has announced that it will continue in the same voice. “The Swedish measures have had effects that are not so different from the effects of measures taken by so many other countries”, pleaded the chief epidemiologist of this kingdom, Anders Tegnell, in an interview with AFP.

The Netherlands for its part reported 14 passengers arriving from South Africa carrying Omicron, but this variant was already in circulation there on November 19, almost a week before the South African announcement, according to the reports. Dutch authorities. France reported its first case on Tuesday, on Reunion Island, in the Indian Ocean, and now recommends vaccination for all five-eleven years at risk of a severe form of Covid. On Tuesday evening, two cases of coronavirus due to Omicron were also detected in Switzerland.

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In Asia, Japan, three weeks after relaxing some restrictions, banned since Tuesday “All entries of foreign nationals”. The government confirmed its first case of Omicron on Tuesday in a man returning from Namibia.

An exponential increase

Never has a variant of Covid-19 caused so much concern since the emergence of Delta, currently dominant and already very contagious. WHO judges “High” the “Probability that Omicron will spread globally”, even if many unknowns remain: contagiousness, effectiveness of existing vaccines, severity of symptoms.

Variants, vaccination, duration of protection… Our immunity scrutinized by five experts

Reassuringly, to date, no deaths associated with Omicron have been reported. In South Africa, most of the new infections are already linked to Omicron and the government is predicting an exponential rise. These data suggest that the variant has a great potential for spread and remind us of the urgency of vaccination on a global scale, the only one capable of controlling the epidemic, while the population of Africa is very small. vaccinated. On Tuesday, the world stock markets and oil fell sharply against the advance of Omicron.

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China, for its part, acknowledged that Omicron would complicate the organization of the Beijing Winter Olympics (February 4-20, 2022), but reaffirmed its confidence in their success.

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