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Brazil and Japan joined the rapidly widening circle of countries to report cases of the Omicron variant on Tuesday, while new findings indicate the mutant coronavirus was already in Europe close to a week before South Africa sounded the alarm.
The Netherlands' RIVM health institute disclosed that patient samples dating from Nov. 19 and 23 were found to contain the variant. It was on Nov. 24 that South African authorities reported the existence of the highly mutated virus to the World Health Organisation.
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That indicates Omicron had a bigger head start in the Netherlands than previously believed.
Forty-two cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant have been confirmed in 10 European Union countries, the head of the EU's public health agency said on Tuesday.
Japan on Wednesday started offering coronavirus vaccine booster shots to health care workers.
Together with the cases in Japan and Brazil, the finding illustrates the difficulty in containing the virus in an age of jet travel and economic globalization. And it left the world once again whipsawed between hopes of returning to normal and fears that the worst is yet to come.
Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it can thwart the vaccine.
Japan on Wednesday started offering coronavirus vaccine booster shots to health care workers amid growing concerns over a new variant of the virus that has already been detected in the country.
Meanwhile, Air travellers to the United States will face tougher COVID-19 testing rules as several countries moved to seal-off their borders amid growing uncertainty around the virulence of the Omicron variant and its ability to dodge existing vaccines.
It could take "days to several weeks" to understand the level of severity of the variant, says the World Health Organisation (WHO), which flagged Omicron as a "variant of concern".
There were 146 deaths reported on Monday, bringing the toll to 483,936 since the pandemic first struck India in early 2020. Only the United States and Brazil have recorded more deaths.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that deciding the severity level of Omicron, identified first in South Africa, could take "days to several weeks" in the absence of information that its symptoms differed from those of other variants.
Rescuers, including the Philippine Coast Guard and fishermen, saved 195 passengers and 35 crew as the blaze ripped through the ferry off Baluk-Baluk Island in Basilan province.
Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed expressed his thanks to Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad for his congratulations and the sincere fraternal feelings he showed, wishing the brotherly State of Qatar and its people further progress and development.
Sheikh Sultan’s statement reads, “The Ruler of Sharjah congratulates Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan on his appointment as Vice President."
Sheikh Mohammed said, “I congratulate my brothers Sheikh Hazaa, Sheikh Tahnoun, Sheikh Mansour and Sheikh Khaled Bin Mohamed for the confidence in the President of the State. In you and your brothers, the leaders of the new generation, the march continues.”