Saudi Arabia records first case of Omicron Covid variant

The kingdom has halted flights from seven African countries in response to the new mutated strain of the coronavirus

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The first case of the Omicron Covid-19 variant has been detected in Saudi Arabia, the kingdom said on Wednesday.

“One case has been detected in the kingdom of a citizen that came from a north African country,” a Health Ministry official said in a statement to state media.

The person and those in contact with them are now in isolation and the appropriate health procedures have been taken, the report said.

“We stress the need for all members of society to complete receiving the coronavirus vaccine doses and to adhere to all precautionary measures," it said.

Health Ministry spokesman, Dr Mohammed AlAbd Al Aly, urged citizens to take the vaccine booster shot if they had passed the six month mark of taking their second dose.

"Failure to immunise against corona increases the chance of the emergence of mutant variants," Mr Al Aly said.

He said that everyone must wear a mask in all places, which was necessary to counter the spread of the virus.

"We call for caution and the application of precautionary measures to confront Covid-19," he said.

Saudi authorities also urged those landing in the kingdom to "adhere to instructions related to quarantine and to ensure they get tested."

The kingdom said on Sunday that it was temporarily suspending flights to and from seven African countries due to the outbreak of the strain first detected in southern Africa.

The countries are Malawi, Zambia, Madagascar, Angola, Seychelles, Mauritius and Comoros.

The rules make an exception for people coming directly or indirectly from those countries who have spent a period of no less than fourteen days in another country whose health procedures comply with Saudi Arabia’s rules regarding entry.

On Saturday, the kingdom updated its rules and said it will allow entry for travellers "from all countries", as long as they have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine inside Saudi Arabia.

Authorities said people would be allowed in from December 3 and would need to quarantine for three days. It did not mention the flight suspensions.

Countries around the world have closed off travel and brought in new measures amid growing fears that the new Omicron strain is more transmissible than the globally dominant delta strain.

Experts and scientists are still studying the mutated strain to assess the threat. The World Health Organisation has already warned it poses a great danger and should be taken seriously.

Omicron was first reported on November 19 in South Africa, where infections have risen steeply.

It has since spread to more than a dozen countries, many of which have imposed travel restrictions to try to seal themselves off.

Updated: December 01, 2021, 2:14 PM