Brazil, Japan Confirm First Cases of Omicron Variant, South Korea Reports First Suspected Cases

By Mimi Nguyen Ly
Mimi Nguyen Ly
Mimi Nguyen Ly
Reporter
Mimi Nguyen Ly is a reporter covering world news with a focus on U.S. news. Based in Australia, she has a background in clinical optometry. Contact Mimi at mimi.nl@epochtimes.com
December 1, 2021 Updated: December 1, 2021

Brazil and Japan reported their first cases of the Omicron variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus that causes the COVID-19 disease on Tuesday, with South Korea also reporting its first suspected cases.

The news came the same day as Dutch scientists confirmed the Omicron variant had been circulating in the Netherlands prior to its detection in South Africa on Nov. 24. Specifically, two patient test samples from Nov. 19 and 23 taken in the Netherlands were found to contain the variant, according to the country’s RIVM health institute.

Brazilian health regulator Anvisa said Tuesday that two Brazilians tested positive for the new variant, marking the first such reported cases in Latin America.

According to Anvisa, a traveler who arrived in Sao Paulo from South Africa and his wife, who hadn’t traveled, both tested positive for the Omicron variant. The state of Sao Paulo said the positive test results were confirmed with a second test. The state government said it is now reviewing its plans to lift rules surrounding mask wearing.

The traveler previously tested negative when he landed at Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos international airport on Nov. 23, before Brazil on Nov. 25 suspended flights from South Africa and five other southern African countries.

The two COVID-19 positive Brazilians are missionaries, Sao Paulo Health Secretary Jean Gorinchteyn told CNN Brasil, adding that there was no documentation to suggest they had been vaccinated.

In Japan, health minister Shigeyuki Goto said late Tuesday that a Namibian diplomat in his 30s was detected by genomic screening to have the Omicron variant after having landed in Tokyo on Nov. 28 from Namibia, reported The Japan Times.

According to Goto, the man had been vaccinated twice. He was asymptomatic upon arriving at Narita Airport on Nov. 28, but developed a fever on Nov. 29, Goto said. He added that the 71 passengers on the same plane as the Namibian diplomat will be quarantined for 10 days at a government-designated facility and be tested for COVID-19 every two days.

Japan earlier on Tuesday imposed a temporary ban against all foreign visitors to prevent the Omicron strain from spreading, despite current low levels of COVID-19 infection in the country.

Meanwhile, South Korean health authorities announced Tuesday their first suspected cases of the Omicron variant in a couple who arrived in the country from Nigeria, and their acquaintance, reported Yonhap News Agency.

Authorities expect genome sequencing test results to be announced late Wednesday local time.

The couple had been fully vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine and had visited Nigeria on Nov. 14–23 before testing positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 25, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

Contact-tracing found the couple’s teenage child, as well as an acquaintance, having tested positive for COVID-19.

South Korea has increased restrictions to enter the country for people arriving from the African region.

After being briefed on the suspected cases, President Moon Jae-in ordered an Omicron task force, created on Tuesday, to dedicate its efforts to block the new variant’s spread, spokeswoman Park Kyung-mee said, reported Seoul Traffic Broadcasting System.

Since Nov. 28, South Korea has restricted arrivals from South Africa and seven other African nations in efforts to curb the spread of the variant.

Since announcing the new strain, the World Health Organization has designated it as a “variant of concern” and suggested it poses an “increased risk of reinfection” compared to other COVID-19 variants.

As of Tuesday, at least 18 countries have confirmed presence of the Omicron variant.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Mimi Nguyen Ly
Mimi Nguyen Ly is a reporter covering world news with a focus on U.S. news. Based in Australia, she has a background in clinical optometry. Contact Mimi at mimi.nl@epochtimes.com