Brazil's National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) Tuesday reported having detected the first two local cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, which are also the first two infections of this kind in the entire South American continent.
The strain had been flown in from South Africa into São Paulo's Guarulhos airport Nov. 23. The samples tested positive at the Albert Einstein laboratory and will now be sent over to the Adolfo Lutz Institute (IAL) for a second analysys.
According to Anvisa, a man had arrived Nov. 23 at Guarulhos when he underwent a PCR test which came out negative. Two days later, he returned to the same airport in the company of his wife and they went to the laboratory located inside the terminal for a new swab, before taking a flight back to South Africa.
”At that time, both tested positive for COVID-19 and the fact was reported to the Strategic Information Center for Health Surveillance (Cievs) in São Paulo, Anvisa said.
Given the positive results, the Albert Einstein Laboratory decided to carry out the genetic sequencing of the samples. The result was known Tuesday: it was the Omicron variant.
The Cievs has been now entrusted with the follow up of cases and direct people to health care facilities.
Nevertheless, Anvisa insisted the passenger had entered the country before the global notification on the identification of the new variant, which was reported for the first time to the World Organization of the Health (WHO) for South Africa on November 24.”
Brazil Monday closed its air borders with South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe to prevent the spread of the new variant. Anvisa has also recommended travelers from Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia be banned from entering the country.
The Omicron variant has been classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as of copncern, due to its high number of changes with respect to the original virus and its ability to spread. Last Friday, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) stated that the risk of the new strain spreading across Europe ranged from high to very high.
The sudden appearance and spread of this variant, whose scope and magnitude is still unknown, has already been replicated in countries such as the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and Israel, among others which have enacted travel restrictions to and from southern Africa, as doubts regarding the effectiveness of vaccines have also emerged.
Tuesday's announcement makes Brazil the 20th country to report the new variant.