Saudi Arabia and the UAE confirmed the discovery of the first case of the new Corona virus mutant, Omicron, in each of them.
A statement issued by the Saudi Ministry of Health, according to what was reported by the official SPA news agency, said that the authorities “isolated the infected case, which is for a person coming from North Africa, and the people who were in contact with him.”
The ministry urged people to complete vaccination and ordered travelers to respect self-isolation and testing rules.
And the UAE Ministry of Health and Community Protection announced the registration of the first case of the Omicron mutator.
She said that it is for an African woman coming from an African country through an Arab country. The ministry confirmed that the woman “has received two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, according to the approved national protocol.”
She explained, “The patient was isolated and her condition followed up, as she did not show any symptoms, and those who were in contact with her were isolated and all necessary health measures were taken.”
These are the first two cases of Omicron to be reported in the Middle East and North Africa.
The emergence of the first infection with the new mutant in the Middle East coincides with the warning of scientists that Omicron has overcome the body’s immunity, and the possibility of starting a wave of infections that “could be large” during the coming period.
The World Health Organization has warned that the highly mutated Omicron may spread globally, and pose a very high risk of infection that may have “serious consequences” in some places.
There are concerns that the new mutant may overwhelm immunity from a previous infection or vaccine
Omicron was first detected on November 24 in South Africa, where infections rose sharply. It has since spread to more than a dozen countries, many of which have imposed travel restrictions in an attempt to limit access to them.
On Monday, Japan joined Israel and Morocco in saying it would completely close its borders.
What did the scientists say?
More than 30 scientists in Britain attended a video conference on November 29, led by the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and chief medical adviser Chris Whitty.
The minutes of the meetings, seen by the BBC but not yet published, say it is “highly likely” that the omicron mutant will be able to overcome the immunity acquired by the body after infection, or acquired after a previous vaccination “to some extent”.
The current delta mutant is more resistant to vaccines than the original virus found in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Scientists believe that the booster doses may provide protection against severe symptoms, the need for hospitalization, and death from most of the mutations in the short term.
But they also noted that: “Any significant decrease in protection from infection can lead to a very large wave of infection. This in turn will lead to a large number of cases requiring hospital treatment, even with protection from severe symptoms that are less effective.”
But advisers stressed that “it is important to be prepared for a potentially very large wave of infections.”
With these warnings emerging, countries around the world are still taking measures to protect public health, including travel restrictions on South African countries, stronger rules on self-isolation for contacts, and a new mandate on face coverings.
In Britain, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said the country is speeding up its vaccination program by offering a booster shot to all adults in England by the end of January, reducing the gap between second doses and boosters, and vaccinating children aged 12 to 15 with a dose a second.
Professor Andrew Hayward, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, cautioned that there was a need to monitor Omicron’s growth as “small numbers can turn into big numbers very quickly”.
British Health Secretary Sajid Javid urged people on Wednesday to receive a booster dose of the Covid-19 virus.
He said that there are 22 confirmed cases of Omicron virus in the country.
He added that the government believed the booster campaign would help protect against Omicron, even if the vaccines turned out to be not as effective against it as previous strains of the disease.