First confirmed case and dozens more suspected — Analysis
Belgian authorities confirmed the existence of Covid 19 in Europe. Suspected cases are being investigated by Germany and the Czech Republic.
The spokesperson for Czech Ministry of Health stated that Covid was found in a female returning from Egypt on Saturday. A spokesperson from the Czech Ministry for Health stated that the sample has been further studied and an official confirmation will be issued by Sunday morning.
Coinciding with that report from the Czech Republic, Kai Klose, the social affairs and integration minister in Germany’s Hesse region, tweeted that the “Omicron variants have, with very high probability, arrived already in Germany.” Klose revealed that “A person from South Africa was found to have multiple Omicron mutations” on Friday night. In the meantime, the entire sequence of the virus in the sample was being sequenced.
The Netherlands was facing many Omicron cases when the Dutch authorities received 61 South Africans arriving from South Africa who tested positive for Covid-19. They were then taken to an isolated hotel nearby and separated from their fellow travelers. The Dutch Health Ministry said samples are being studied “Do it as soon as you can [to see] whether they are the new variant of concern, now named ‘Omicron’.”
The Dutch government had already banned South African air travel earlier that day. Two of the passengers who arrived from that airport had to stay hours at the runway waiting for their tests.
Belgium is the only European country to officially confirm an Omicron case. This has been a dubious distinction. The country’s health minister, Frank Vandenbroucke, announced on Thursday that the infected patient is an unvaccinated person who tested positive for Covid on November 22. According to Belgium’s chief virologist, Mark Van Ranst, the holidaymaker had earlier returned from Egypt.
On Friday, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) warned there was still “It is difficult to know the transmission, effectiveness of vaccines, risks for reinfections, and other aspects of Omicron’s variant.” The EU health authorities classed the strain as a “High to Very high” risk. The 27 EU member countries agreed on that day to temporarily suspend air travel from seven African countries. Similar restrictions have been imposed by Canada, the United States and Britain.