Suspected case of Omicron coronavirus discovered in Germany

“Last night several typical Omicron mutations were found in a traveler returning from South Africa,” tweeted Kai Klose, Minister of Social Affairs of Hesse, where Frankfurt Airport, the largest hub, is located. of Germany and one of the busiest airports in Europe.

He added that full sequencing of the variant was underway and the person was in self-isolation. Anyone who has traveled from South Africa in the past few weeks should limit contact and get tested, he said.

The new variant has emerged as Germany and many other European countries grapple with an increase in coronavirus cases.

Health Minister Jens Spahn warned the situation was worse than ever. “We must reduce all contacts, we are in a situation which is more serious than what we have known before,” he said during a town hall with a group of experts.

Germany recorded 67,125 new cases of coronavirus on Saturday, the Robert Koch Institute of Infectious Diseases announced. More than 100,000 people have died from COVID-19.

Most Germans are prepared for tighter restrictions as intensive care units, especially in eastern and southern Germany, reach their limits and COVID-19 patients are transferred from overwhelmed hospitals.

La Leopoldina, a respected official scientific advisory body, has recommended a drastic reduction in contacts, at least in hard-hit areas, and mandatory vaccinations.

Only 68.3% of the German population of around 83 million are fully vaccinated, far behind the rates of southern European countries such as Portugal, Spain and even France. About 10% of the population has received a booster, Spahn said.

Immunologist Leif Erik Sander from Charite Hospital in Berlin said current vaccines would likely offer at least some protection against the Omicron variant.

“I’m optimistic we won’t have to start from scratch,” he told City Hall, adding that more research was needed.

Germany has said it will classify South Africa as a viral variant area from Sunday. That doesn’t go as far as a flight ban, but means airlines can only transport Germans to Germany from South Africa and even those who are vaccinated must spend 14 days in quarantine.

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