[ First Page ] 2021-11-28
Covid variant Omicron
BD joins nations to ban S Africa travels
Bangladesh is set to suspend air connectivity with South Africa (SA) following a growing concern over the new coronavirus variant Omicron that has been detected first there.

The decision has been taken as a precautionary measure to avoid any possible health-related disaster that the deadly variant might cause entering the country, Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr Zahid Maleque said.

The minister shared the development in an audio message before travelling to Geneva of Switzerland to take part in the Second Special Session of World Health Assembly to be hosted by World Health Organisation (WHO). The WHO termed the new strain as a variant of concern.

Bangladesh joined nations who slapped travel bans to contain spread of the new strain. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) postponed the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) amid concerns over the new variant.

Terming the new variant 'very aggressive' than others, the minister said they have already instructed the authorities concerned to further tighten the screening at the entry points of the country, including airports and land ports.

"The health ministry is well aware of the Omicron variant of the virus that spread in several African and European countries and the authorities are taking necessary measures," he said.

Highlighting the importance of following the Covid-19 health protocols instead of getting panicked, Mr Maleque said they also instructed the local administration to strictly enforce the required health guidelines in their areas.

"We need to be more cautious so that none can enter the country, even those who step in from non-African nations without going through proper screening. Necessary directives were given to the departments concerned," the minister added.

The threat of new variant comes at a time when Bangladesh has been witnessing lower infection and mortality rates over the past several weeks.

The spread of the latest variant from Africa to Europe already raised an alarm bell at the global stage as various global events like WTO ministerial conference and qualifying round of ICC Women's Cricket World Cup were called off very recently.

The Omicron was first discovered in South Africa and spread in Belgium, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong. Some countries, including the UK and USA, have already cancelled flights from South Africa and its neighbouring nations.

Called B.1.1.529, Omicron is the fifth variant of concern designated by the WHO that also warned that Omicron may spread more quickly than other forms with an increased risk of reinfection.

The WTO announced early Saturday morning the postponement of its MC12 due to the surge of new COVID-19 variant in various countries.

The MC12 was due to take place from Tuesday to Friday in Geneva. No date has been set for the rescheduling of the conference.

According to agencies: The world reacted with alarm Friday to the highly mutated new coronavirus variant discovered in southern Africa, as the United States, the European Union and nations across the globe imposed new travel restrictions, financial markets swooned, and visions of finally emerging from the pandemic started to dim.

Just two days after the world learned of the variant, the WHO officially labeled it a "variant of concern," its most serious category -- the first since the delta variant, which emerged a year ago. The designation means that the variant has mutations that might make it more contagious or more virulent, or make vaccines and other preventive measures less effective -- although none of those effects has yet been established.

After an emergency meeting, the WHO warned in a statement that "preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant" in people who have already had COVID-19. In keeping with the practice of naming variants for letters of the Greek alphabet, it dubbed the new one omicron.

The WHO and scientists on multiple continents cautioned that very little is known about the omicron variant or about whether the dangers it poses will justify the fears it is stoking. South African scientists announced its existence Wednesday, and the number of cases definitively identified, all of them within the past three weeks, is still small, under 100.
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