Coronavirus: Portugal, Scotland report cases of omicron variant

LISBON, Portugal — Portugal and Scotland on Monday became the latest countries to report cases of the new coronavirus variant, omicron.

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According to The Associated Press, Portuguese health officials reported 13 omicron infections within the Belenenses SAD soccer club. One player infected with the variant had traveled to South Africa, where omicron was first detected, but the others – who include athletes and staff – had not, the AP and Reuters reported. Authorities said they are trying to determine whether the cases are among the first instances of local transmission outside Africa.

Meanwhile, Scotland reported six omicron infections, bringing United Kingdom’s total to nine, according to the AP. The three other cases were detected in England, the Guardian reported.

“This will be a worrying time for the six people now identified as having the new variant,” Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said in a statement. “All will receive expert help and support and Public Health Scotland will undertake enhanced contact tracing in all cases. This will help establish the origin of the virus and any further individuals they have come into contact with in recent weeks.”

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The news came just hours after Japan said it is barring entry of foreign visitors beginning Tuesday, and a day after Morocco’s foreign ministry tweeted that it is temporarily suspending incoming international flights. On Friday, the United States also said it would restrict travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Eswatini, Mozambique, Malawi, Namibia and Lesotho, The New York Times previously reported.

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Although the new variant has been detected in several European countries, Canada, Australia, Israel and Hong Kong, no cases have been reported in the U.S., according to the AP. Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, however, told “Weekend Today” on Saturday that he “would not be surprised” if omicron was already circulating here.

On Sunday, Oxford University’s Our World in Data project reported that so far, 54.1% of people worldwide have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. About 89% of Portugal’s residents have received at least one vaccine dose, compared with nearly 75% in the U.K., according to the data.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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