The United Arab Emirates reports its first case hours after Saudi Arabia declared an Omicron infection in the Gulf Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates say they have detected their first cases of the new coronavirus variant, which recorded the first known Omicron infections in the Gulf region.
Saudi Arabia’s state-run Saudi press agency said on Wednesday its case was a civilian coming from what it described as a “North African country”. Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health said the infection was the Gulf’s first confirmed case.
The report said the infected individual and his close contacts had been quarantined.
The UAE also reported its first case of infection with the Omicron variant late Wednesday. The state-run WAM news agency described the patient as an African woman who had traveled from an African country through an Arab country, without specifying which nations.
Much is still unknown about the new variant, which has been identified in more than 20 countries, including whether it is more contagious, whether it makes people more seriously ill and whether it can stop the vaccine.
Elsewhere in the Middle East, Lebanon has declared a night period for the unvaccinated before and during the holiday season. The Minister of Health on Wednesday called it one of the measures to halt a recent increase in coronavirus infections and a precaution against the new variant.
Lebanon has not recorded any infections with Omicron, but the small country, which is suffering from a severe financial crisis, is worried that its healthcare system may not be able to handle a new peak of infections.
Lebanon’s health minister, Firass Abiad, said the COVID committee wanted to avoid imposing a full restraint and hoped to encourage more people to be vaccinated.
Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading expert on infectious diseases in the US, said that more about the Omicron strain will be known in two to four weeks as scientists grow and test laboratory samples of the virus.
The World Health Organization expects to have more information on the transmissibility of the Omicron strain within days, its technical lead on COVID-19, Maria van Kerkhove, said in a briefing.
She said one possible scenario is the new variant, first introduced in Southern Africa, may be more transferable than the dominant Delta. She said it was not yet known whether Omicron would make people sicker.