Faced with concern over the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, which continues to spread across the world despite border closures, the G7 health ministers are meeting urgently this Monday in London.
The ministers of health of France, the United States, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom meet "to discuss the evolution of the situation on Omicron", during 'an "emergency meeting", announced London, at the head of the rotating presidency of the G7.
South Africa "punished"
The move comes as cases linked to the new strain have been detected across G7 countries, from Canada to Italy, including Britain and Germany. In France, the detection of the Omicron variant is "very likely a matter of hours," Health Minister Olivier Véran said on Sunday. While the pandemic has already claimed more than five million lives worldwide since the end of 2019, the arrival of the Omicron variant has been deemed "worrying" by the World Health Organization (WHO).
However, the WHO pleads for maintaining open borders, while South Africa, where the new variant has been detected, and several other countries, have many borders closed.
Deeming itself already "punished" for revealing the existence of the variant, South Africa has called for the "immediate and urgent" lifting of travel restrictions.
Malawi has denounced travel restrictions under "afrophobia".
First image of Omicron
The prestigious Bambino Gesù hospital in Rome has published a first “image” of the new variant, which shows that it has many more mutations than the currently dominant Delta variant.
"Other studies will tell us if this adaptation is neutral, less dangerous or more dangerous," said the researchers.
The cases have in any case multiplied, especially in Europe.
In the Netherlands, health authorities announced that 13 passengers who arrived in Amsterdam from South Africa on Friday were carrying the variant.
A couple in the group were arrested on a plane about to take off to Spain, after fleeing the hotel where they were confined.
The couple, made up of a 30-year-old Spaniard and a 28-year-old Portuguese woman, have been placed in quarantine and face prosecution for "endangering public security".
Israel, where a case has been confirmed in a traveler returning from Malawi, from Sunday evening banned the entry of foreigners and will impose PCR testing and quarantine even on its vaccinated nationals. The new variant B.1.1.529 represents a "high to very high" risk for Europe, according to the European Union health agency. Even before its appearance, the continent was facing an epidemic outbreak linked to the Delta variant, with the reestablishment of health restrictions not always well accepted as in the Netherlands, in the French Antilles or in Switzerland. This country nevertheless largely validated a Covid pass on Sunday.
In Austria, tens of thousands of people marched this weekend against the vaccine obligation.
According to the WHO, preliminary data suggests that the Omicron variant presents "an increased risk of reinfection".
Never has a variant caused so much concern in the world since the emergence of Delta, already very contagious.
" Race against time "
In the United States, which had just reopened to the world in early November, the borders will be closed from Monday to travelers from eight southern African countries.
On the side of vaccine manufacturers, AstraZeneca such as Pfizer / BioNTech, Moderna and Novavax have expressed confidence in their ability to fight the Omicron strain.
It will take "several weeks" to understand the level of transmissibility and virulence of the new variant, the WHO said on Friday.
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, estimated at "two to three weeks" the time needed for laboratories to determine whether they should adapt their vaccine, calling on Sunday to redouble health precautions to "save time" during this "race against time".
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