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Deadlier Omicron variant of coronavirus spreads to UK, Germany & Italy too

The new deadlier Omicron variant of the coronavirus has been detected in more countries in Europe on Saturday.

The new deadlier Omicron variant of the coronavirus has been detected in more countries in Europe on Saturday even as they step up their vigil to stave off the threat.

The U.K. on Saturday introduced more stringent rules for testing of international arrivals after finding two cases while new cases of the more virulent variant, which has as many as 30 spike proteins, were confirmed on Saturday in Germany and Italy.

In Germany, the Max von Pettenkofer Institute, a Munich-based microbiology center, said the Omicron variant was confirmed in two travelers who arrived on a flight from South Africa on Nov. 24.

An Italian who had traveled to Mozambique on business landed in Rome on Nov. 11 and returned to his home near Naples. He and five family members, including two school-age children, have since tested positive, the Italian news agency LaPresse said. All are isolating in the Naples suburb of Caserta in good condition with light symptoms.

Belgium, Israel and Hong Kong had earlier reported that the variant had been detected in some air passengers from South Africa.

In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was necessary to take “targeted and precautionary measures” after two people tested positive for the new variant in England.

“Right now this is the responsible course of action to slow down the seeding and the spread of this new variant and to maximize our defences,” he said at a news conference.

The British government also added four more countries — Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia — onto the country's travel red list from Sunday. South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia  and Zimbabwe were already on the list. Anyone permitted to arrive from these destinations will have to quarantine.

Many countries have slapped restrictions on various southern African countries over the past couple of days, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, the European Union, Iran, Japan, Thailand and the United States, in response to warnings over the transmissibility of the new variant.

Despite the banning of flights, there are mounting concerns that the variant has already been widely seeded around the world.

In the U.S., Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious diseases expert, said he would not be surprised if the Omicron variant was already in the United States, too.

“We have not detected it yet, but when you have a virus that is showing this degree of transmissibility … it almost invariably is ultimately going to go essentially all over,” Fauci said on NBC television.

Because of fears that the new variant has the potential to be more resistant to the protection offered by vaccines, there are growing concerns around the world that the pandemic may last longer than expected.

Nearly two years since the start of the pandemic that has claimed more than 5 million lives around the world, countries are on high alert.

Also read: What you need to know about the new deadlier Omicron variant of COVID-19