BERLIN: A German regional official said Saturday that health authorities have identified the first suspected case in the country of the new Covid-19 variant, in a person who returned from South Africa.
"The Omicron variant has with strong likelihood already arrived in Germany," Kai Klose, social affairs minister in the western state of Hesse, tweeted, referring to the strain first detected in southern Africa.
Klose said that tests late Friday on the traveller who had returned to Germany from South Africa revealed "several mutations typical of Omicron".
"As there is this strong suspicion, the person has been isolated at home. The full sequencing is still to be completed."
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Klose's ministry said that the person had arrived in Germany, the EU's most populous country, at Frankfurt international airport, the country's busiest.
Andrej Babis, the prime minister of the neighbouring Czech Republic, said Saturday a local lab was checking a sample from a woman who had been in Namibia and tested positive upon arrival.
"She flew back to the Czech Republic via South Africa and Dubai," Babis said in a tweet.
"The woman is vaccinated, she has mild symptoms and we will have the result of the sequencing test tomorrow," he added.
German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, who is expected to be sworn in as successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel early next month, stressed Saturday that his coalition would do "everything necessary" to fight the virus and its variants.
"We are establishing a crisis team and are developing a new, precise approach to the current challenges with corona and Omicron," he tweeted.
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"We will do everything necessary. There is nothing which can't be considered," he said, as calls grow louder for mandatory coronavirus vaccinations.
The suspect case in Germany follows Belgium saying on Friday it had detected the first announced case in Europe of the new Covid-19 variant, in an unvaccinated person returning from abroad.
A leading Belgian virologist, Marc Van Ranst, tweeted that the person had returned from Egypt on November 11.
The World Health Organization on Friday declared the recently discovered B.1.1.529 strain of Covid-19 to be a variant of concern, renaming it Omicron.
EU health authorities have said the new strain poses a "high to very high risk" to the continent.
EU officials agreed on Friday to urge all 27 nations in the bloc to restrict travel from several southern African nations, a policy both Germany and the Czech Republic have already announced.
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