Following the spread of the new corona strain, Switzerland has announced that it will not allow entry into its territory for citizens of the countries in which it has already been discovered – including Israel. Locals arriving from Israel will be required to stay 10 days in solitary confinement. Suspicion of first cases of infection in Germany and the Czech Republic, isolation and further tests for 61 positives that landed in the Netherlands from South Africa
The Swiss embassy in Tel Aviv announced this morning (Saturday) that Israelis will be completely barred from entering its territory, except for Swiss or European citizens arriving from Israel – and they will be required to present the results of a negative corona test and stay in solitary confinement for ten days. This follows the diagnosis of the first cases of infection with the new strain of corona virus in the country. So far, four verifications of the new breed have been discovered in Israel – one of them traveled to Eilat by bus, another participated in a trip to South Africa and was vaccinated in three doses, the last two months ago.
Switzerland will also ban the entry of citizens of other countries where disease has already been detected in the Omicron strain, including the countries of South Africa and Hong Kong. Meanwhile, Germany reported suspicion of a first case of infection with the new strain – a passenger returning from South Africa. Suspicion of first infection also in the Czech Republic in a man who returned from Namibia. On a flight from South Africa that landed in the Netherlands, 61 positive passengers were diagnosed with the virus, they were sent for isolation and it is now being tested whether they too were infected with the Omicron strain.
Concern over the discovery of the new strain, which is feared to be more contagious and perhaps even more resistant to vaccines, has already led a number of countries to follow Israel and announce restrictions on flights, or their total halt, from countries in southern Africa. pervasive.
The new strain was discovered just a few days ago in South Africa, and last night already received an official name from the World Health Organization: Omicron, the 15th letter in the Greek alphabet. Health organization experts who gathered last night to discuss the new strain have defined it as a cause for concern, and it is only the fifth strain since the outbreak of the epidemic to be defined as such.
The great concern in the world stems from the fact that unlike previous strains, Omicron contains about 50 mutations, more than 30 of them in the spike protein that is related to the virus’ ability to penetrate human cells and thus spread in the body, and on which the vaccines were developed. Already on Tuesday, the British health authorities warned that this is the most worrying strain they have encountered so far, noting that its spike protein differs “dramatically” from that of the original strain of the virus, the same strain that was discovered in China about two years ago.
A statement from the World Health Organization last night stated that there is evidence that it has the ability to re-infect, meaning it can infect better than other strains of people who have already recovered from the virus. It was further reported that there appears to have been a “harmful epidemiological change in the corona virus”. Other scientists have noted in the past two days that this is the species with the largest number of mutations discovered so far, and one of them described it as a “leap in evolution.”
The fact that this strain is attributed to a dramatic jump in morbidity in South Africa also contributed to much concern: after a period in which the number of infections there was relatively low – about 200 daily – in the last week their number jumped to more than 1,200 on Wednesday. Yesterday the number had already climbed to 2,465. Health Minister Joe Fahle said the first outbreak was in Pretoria and nearby cities – apparently following student gatherings at universities in the area. Scientists began to test this and thus discovered the new strain.
To date, according to the World Health Organization, about 100 cases of the new strain have been detected, mainly in South Africa, but also in Botswana, Hong Kong and Israel – among travelers returning from South Africa. Last night, Belgium, the first European country to report the discovery of the strain, also joined the list, and in her case it was an unvaccinated passenger who returned from Egypt via Turkey, and reported that she had not been to South Africa at all. She returned to Belgium as early as November 11, that is, more than two weeks ago, but developed mild cold-like symptoms only last Monday.
Israel was the first country in the world to announce on Tuesday the inclusion of a number of countries in the African continent as red – yesterday the list was extended to the entire continent except Morocco and Egypt – and after that Britain also announced new restrictions. Yesterday, two countries around the world joined one after the other, and in the EU, the 27 member states of the organization made a joint decision to temporarily, and immediately, stop flights from the south of the continent.
European Commission President Ursula von der Lane said the delay in flights from southern Africa would continue until “we have a clear understanding of the danger posed by the new strain”. She called on returning travelers from southern Africa to “respect the rules of isolation.”
Switzerland, which is not a member of the union, has also announced a halt to flights from the southern African continent. It had already announced yesterday that it would restrict the entry of passengers from Israel, Hong Kong and Belgium – that it would have to present a negative corona test to enter the country, and would be charged with ten days in solitary confinement. Today, as mentioned, the restriction has been tightened.
The United States and Canada also announced last night restrictions on flights from African countries. A senior U.S. administration official said the United States would ban entry from eight African countries: Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Aswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.
The move, he said, was made “for safety’s sake,” and the restrictions would not apply to U.S. citizens or foreigners with U.S. resident status. Such a decision was made. He stated that the new strain had not yet been discovered in the US, but admitted that it appeared to be spreading “at a fairly accelerated speed”.