Covid curbs come back as more countries report Omicron cases – Times of India

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BERLIN/WASHINGTON: Germany decided on Thursday to bar the unvaccinated from all but the most essential businesses and the US was due to announce further travel curbs as countries around the globe scramble to keep out the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. US treasury secretary Janet Yellen said the variant showed the pandemic could be around for “some time”, as countries including India, France, Finland, Greece and Singapore reported their first cases. The US reported its second case of the Omicron variant in Minnesota on Thursday, the state’s health department announced, just a day after the US reported its first case of the new variant in California.
The new measures agreed in Germany focus on the unvaccinated, who will only be allowed in essential businesses such as grocery stores and pharmacies, while legislation to make vaccination mandatory will be drafted for early next year. “We have understood that the situation is very serious and that we want to take further measures in addition to those already taken,” Chancellor Angela Merkel told a news conference. A nationwide vaccination mandate could take effect from February 2022 after it is debated in the Bundestag and after guidance from Germany’s Ethics Council, she said. Eager to avoid derailing a fragile recovery of Europe’s biggest economy, Germany kept businesses open to the almost 69% of the population that is fully vaccinated as well as those with proof of having recovered from the virus.
In the US, the Biden administration was expected to announce steps included extending requirements for travellers to wear masks through mid-March. By early next week the US will require inbound international travellers to be tested for Covid-19 within a day of departure, regardless of vaccination status. It will also require private health insurance companies to reimburse customers for at-home Covid-19 tests, a senior official said.
The first known US case, announced late on Wednesday, was a fully vaccinated person in California who had travelled to South Africa. The second case concerned a Minnesota resident, an adult male who had a recent travel history to New York City, and had been fully vaccinated. He developed mild symptoms on November 22 and sought Covid-19 testing on November 24, the state’s health department said, adding that his symptoms have resolved. The two French cases, in the greater Paris region and in eastern France, were passengers arriving respectively from Nigeria and South Africa. Finland confirmed its first case of the Omicron variant on a person who had returned from Sweden. Other people travelling with the person had also tested positive for the coronavirus, but the variant was not yet confirmed from their samples. Greece detected its first case of the Omicron variant on the island of Crete in a Greek citizen who had arrived from southern Africa on November 26, health minister Thanos Plevris told reporters on Thursday. Singapore detected two imported cases in travellers who arrived on a flight from Johannesburg. They were isolated upon arrival in the island state on December 1 and had not interacted in the community. Both individuals, who tested negative during their pre-departure tests, are fully vaccinated and have mild symptoms.
Russia, meanwhile, has imposed a two-week quarantine for travellers from some African countries including South Africa, the Interfax news agency said, quoting a senior official. Hong Kong extended a travel ban to more countries.





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