Videos. Omicron: WHO considers travel bans useless, Latin America affected in turn

The World Health Organization (WHO) deemed unnecessary yesterday, Tuesday November 30, 2021, travel bans to stem the spread of the new variant of the Omicron coronavirus, cases of which were detected for the first time in Latin America. Officially reported in South Africa on November 24, this highly contagious new variant would have actually started to spread around the world several days earlier, with Dutch health authorities announcing on Tuesday that Omicron was already circulating in the Netherlands on November 19. Omicron was detected in the Netherlands in two test samples taken on November 19 and 23 and one of the two affected had not traveled recently, suggesting that the variant was already circulating in the country, according to the Dutch Institute of health and the environment (RIVM). On Tuesday evening, Brazil announced that it had registered its first two cases, the first also in Latin America, in travelers from South Africa. But “general travel bans will not prevent the spread” of this variant, the WHO said in a technical document. Faced with the panic which seems to take hold of the planet, the head of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, called Tuesday for “calm” and asked for a “rational” and “proportional” response. He said he was “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 countries. Since South Africa reported the appearance of this new variant last week, many states have closed their borders to that country and its neighbors, sparking anger in the region. These measures “may have a negative impact on global health efforts during a pandemic by discouraging countries from reporting and sharing epidemiological and sequencing data,” the WHO warned. Several months for a vaccine? Possible hope for Covid-19 patients, a committee of American scientists spoke out on Tuesday in favor of the emergency authorization, in certain patients at risk, of the pill against this disease from the Merck laboratory in the United States. The vote of these experts at the end of a day of discussions was however close, with 13 for and 10 against, and the final decision on the approval of this drug will be with the American Agency of Medicines (FDA). Merck's anti-Covid pill deemed effective by the United States Medicines Agency As the world questions the response to the Omicron variant with multiple mutations, the leader of vaccine manufacturer Moderna, Stéphane Bancel, predicted in an interview with the Financial Times a “significant drop” in the effectiveness of current serums. 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 us. 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. This new strain has now been spotted on all continents. But Europe, facing a new wave, seems the most affected and is stepping up measures to stem the pandemic. Overwhelmed by an outbreak of infections, Germany put on the mat Tuesday 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,” future Chancellor Olaf Scholz told Bild TV. In the UK, wearing a mask in transport and shops became mandatory again on Tuesday and all arriving travelers must take a PCR test and self-isolate until the result. France reported its first case of the Omicron variant on Tuesday, on Reunion Island, in the Indian Ocean, and now recommends vaccination for five-eleven year olds at risk of a severe form of Covid. On Tuesday evening, two cases of coronavirus due to Omicron were also recorded in Switzerland. In Asia, Japan, three weeks after easing certain restrictions, has banned since Tuesday “all entries of foreign nationals” and the government has confirmed its first case of Omicron, in a man returning from Namibia. Canada on Tuesday banned travelers from Malawi, Nigeria and Egypt from entering its territory, bringing the number of countries – all African – affected by this measure to 10. Exponential rise Never a variant of Covid-19 has caused so much concern since the emergence of Delta, currently dominant and already very contagious. The WHO considers “high” the “probability that Omicron spreads globally”, even if many unknowns remain: contagiousness, effectiveness of existing vaccines, severity of symptoms. Reassuringly, to date, no deaths associated with Omicron have been reported. Videos. Omicron variant: G7 calls for “urgent action”, Biden does not want to panic In South Africa, most of the new infections are already linked to Omicron, suggesting that the variant has great potential for spread. The Covid-19 pandemic has killed at least 5,206,370 people since its appearance in late 2019 in China, according to an AFP count.