Zambia has detected its first cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant, as the “highly transmissible” new variant spread to more than 40 countries since it was first detected in South Africa last week.
The country’s health ministry said yesterday that three people tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week. It added that two of the three infected had travelled abroad recently. A woman who had not travelled abroad had mild symptoms, it said.
The Omicron variant has been detected in 41 countries, up from 23 just two days ago, following which some countries have taken measures to contain the spread of the variant.
In Brazil, the mayor of Rio de Janeiro canceled New Year’s Eve celebrations after Brazil confirmed the first known cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant in Latin America’s biggest country.
Eduardo Paes tweeted that he would follow the recommendations of Rio de Janeiro state to cancel the celebrations, despite the city’s own view to the contrary.
“We respect science,” Paes tweeted, saying there are dissenting opinions between scientific committees in the city and the state, but he would rather stick with the most restrictive one. “The city’s committee said it can go ahead and the state’s says no. So it can’t take place. Let’s cancel the official New Year’s Eve celebration in Rio,” the tweet said.
Meanwhile throngs marched through, Austria’s capital, Vienna to protest against restrictions on public life designed to curb the coronavirus pandemic.
Faced with surging daily infections, the government last month made Austria the first country in Western Europe to reimpose a 20-day lockdown and said it would make vaccinations mandatory from February.
People carried signs saying, “I will decide myself”, “Make Austria Great Again” and “New Elections” – a nod to the political turmoil that has seen three chancellors within two months – as crowds gathered.
Approximately 1,200 police officers deployed to handle scattered protests that were supposed to merge into a march on the Ring boulevard in central Vienna. Police said they would remind marchers to wear masks and charge people who do not.
In a related development, Russia’s state statistics agency said that 74,893 people with COVID-19 died in October, the highest monthly tally in the pandemic that comes as Russia is grappling with a major surge of coronavirus infections and deaths.
A report released by Rosstat brought the overall number of virus-linked deaths between April 2020 and October 2021 to over 537,000 – almost twice the widely cited toll reported by Russia’s state coronavirus task force to date.
Russia, in recent months, has faced its deadliest and largest surge of coronavirus cases, with officially reported infections and deaths regularly hitting all-time highs and only slowing in the past couple of weeks.