First case of Omicron variant of COVID-19 detected in Spain

SPANISH health authorities have confirmed that the first case of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has been detected in Spain.

The variant was detected in a traveller who had recently arrived in Spain from South Africa, hospital authorities said.

The case was confirmed by the microbiology department at Madrid’s Gregorio Marañon Hospital on Monday afternoon.

“We managed to use an ultra-fast procedure that permits us to get the result in the same day,” said a tweet posted on the Twitter account of the hospital’s laboratory unit. “The patient is doing well.”

Spain has imposed tighter restrictions on those arriving from South Africa and neighbouring countries amid fears of the spread of the new variant, which scientists believe may be resistant to current vaccines.

Those arriving in Spain from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesoto, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe will have to quarantine for 10 days, the Health Ministry said.

“During the quarantine period, (the traveller) must remain in their home or accommodation, limiting their movements, as well as access of third parties to the home or accommodation, to those essential for the carrying out of the following activities: acquiring groceries or pharmaceutical and essential products, attendance of healthcare centres, services and establishments, and for reasons of force majeure or situations of necessity,” the text reads.

However, there is an option for early release after a week if a test taken on day seven after arrival in Spain comes back negative.

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Monday that the heavily mutated Omicron coronavirus variant is likely to spread internationally and poses a very high risk of infection surges.

“Omicron has an unprecedented number of spike mutations, some of which are concerning for their potential impact on the trajectory of the pandemic,” the organisation said.

“The overall global risk …is assessed as very high.”

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