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Coronavirus: Health minister assessing potential Omicron threat

file photo: people with and without masks shop in amsterdam
File Photo: People with and without protective masks walk on the street while shopping as the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Health authorities have gone on high alert following the emergence of a new Coronavirus variant of concern, dubbed Omicron, that was first reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) from South Africa three days ago.

It has also been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel.

Early evidence suggested Omicron has an increased reinfection risk, compared with other variants of concern, the WHO said.

The variant has a large number of mutations, which are thought to increase its ability to spread and bypass some, but not all, vaccine protection.

However,  there was still no clear real-world data.

Cyprus has already banned entry to travellers from eight African countries, as health authorities have been holding meetings and consultations.

Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas is expected to meet the leadership of the state health services organisation on Sunday to discuss preparedness and on Monday he is scheduled to meet the advisory committee.

Following the example of other countries, on Friday Cyprus banned entry to any person who during the last 14 days before arrival has either resided or passed through the territory of South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi and Botswana.

The travel restrictions do not ban Cyprus or EU citizens or permanent residents, but they will face mandatory quarantine at their own expense.


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