COVID-19 Pandemic

Brazil confirms first omicron cases in Latin America

Published : December 01, 2021 17:28 IST

Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious, makes people more seriously ill, and whether it can thwart the vaccine. Photo: Gustavo Basso/DW

The first confirmed cases of the variant in Latin America have been found in two travelers coming from South Africa.

The omicron variant has been detected in two travelers returning to Brazil from South Africa, health officials reported on November 30. These are the first confirmed cases of the variant in Latin America.

What do we know about omicron in Brazil?

Both travelers arrived in Brazil on November 23. Their positive test results were collected at the Gaurulhos international airport before a return flight to South Africa. The Sao Paulo state health secretariat said a 41-year-old man and a 37-year-old woman are in isolation after testing positive for the variant. They showed light symptoms when they had their tests taken on November 25. Another potential case of omicron had been under investigation by Brazilian authorities since November 28.

In total, Brazil has now reported 614,681 deaths due to COVID, the world's second-highest death toll behind only the United States. Analysists believe this figure to be undercounted. Brazil does not require foreign travelers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before entering the country.

What is omicron?

The new omicron variant was first discovered on November 11 in Botswana. As fears mount over the new variant's potential vaccine resistance, Professor Adam Grundhoff from Hamburg's Leibniz Institute for Experimental Virology told DW he was "quite sure" vaccines will prove effective against the latest version of the virus. "We already know that delta can [infect] vaccinated people, although they don't get seriously sick usually,” said Grundhoff. "I think that's going to be the same [with] omicron, although we might see a higher rate of breakthrough infections."

He added that "vaccines are very, very unlikely to lose their effectiveness totally." Responding to concerns around the virulence of the variant, he said that "thankfully, we have not heard anything which would suggest that this variant is more pathogenic than other variants."

Where else has omicron been detected?

Japan reported its first omicron case on November 30, identified as a Namibian diplomat who had recently arrived to the country. The same day, Japan imposed a ban on all foreign visitors. France recorded its first case in its Indian Ocean territory Reunion. Authorities said the patient was a man who had returned to Reunion from South Africa and Mozambique. New findings from a Dutch health institute indicated on November 30 that the variant was already in Europe close to a week before South Africa reported its existence to the World Health Organization.

sdi/rt (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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