Here are updates about the new coronavirus variant from Wednesday:

  1. World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday said that at least 23 countries in five of six WHO regions have reported cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus disease, reported ANI. Earlier in the day, Norway, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia reported their first cases of the new variant. Saudi Arabia detected one case, Norway two and Nigeria three infections. Omicron cases have already been detected in several other countries, South Africa, Botswana, Israel, Hong Kong, United Kingdom and Germany.
  2. India on Wednesday postponed the resumption of commercial international passenger flights due to concerns over the new Omicron variant. The services were scheduled to resume on December 15. Aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation said that the new date for resumption of international flights will be announced later.
  3. As India’s new rules for international travellers came into effect, six Covid-19 cases were detected after 3,476 passengers arrived from “at-risk” countries were screened, the Union Health Ministry said. According to the guidelines, passengers coming from “at-risk” countries will be tested for Covid on arrival and they cannot leave the airport till their RT-PCR results are available. If tested negative, travellers have to be in home quarantine for seven days followed by a re-test on the eighth day.
  4. The Omicron strain could most likely displace the Delta variant as the dominant strain of coronavirus, Adrian Puren, acting executive director of South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases, told Reuters in an interview. Within four weeks, Puren added, scientists should know to what extent the new variant can evade the immunity developed by existing vaccines or prior infection, and whether it causes worse infection symptoms than other strains.
  5. The Centre has also asked state officials to physically visit homes of those coming from “at-risk” countries to ensure effective home isolation. As of December 30th, the list of nations deemed “at-risk” includes the United Kingdom, all 44 countries in Europe, South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel.
  6. In addition to this, the Maharashtra government said that all international passengers arriving from “at-risk” countries will have to undergo a mandatory seven-day institutional quarantine. RT-PCR tests will be conducted on these flyers thrice on the second, fourth and seventh days after their arrival. This will be effective from December 2 midnight, the Wednesday order said.
  7. Passengers at the Delhi airport complained that the lounge was too crowded and that they are being made to wait for three to four hours after taking Covid tests, The Indian Express reported. Many even said they were not given water, food or access to charging points.
  8. Mumbai made RT-PCR negative test reports mandatory for all domestic passengers amid growing concern about the Omicron variant of coronavirus. The tests should be taken within 72 hours of departure, and in exceptional cases, testing may be allowed on arrival at the Mumbai airport, an order said. The highly mutated Omicron variant was first detected by scientists in South Africa and has been reported in more than a dozen countries around the world since last week.
  9. BioNTech’s Chief Executive Ugur Sahin said the existing vaccines will probably still protect those infected by the Omicron variant from severe disease, AFP reported. “Don’t freak out,” Sahin said. “The plan remains the same: Speed up the administration of a third booster shot.”
  10. Japan has asked international airlines to stop taking new reservations for all flights arriving in the country till December end, reported AP. The country said the measure was an emergency precaution amid growing concern over the spread of the new omicron variant. Meanwhile, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also planning to toughen Covid testing and screening of international fliers to the United States because of the new virus strain, the agency’s Director Rochelle Walensky said, Bloomberg reported.