There is no evidence so far that a woman who tested positive for the Omicron variant of Covid-19 after travelling to Egypt was infected there, a leading World Health Organisation official told The National.
On November 11, the woman flew from Egypt, which has no recorded cases of the Omicron variant, to Belgium where she later tested positive for the new coronavirus strain.
She experienced symptoms 11 days after she travelled back from the North African country, so “it’s unlikely that the patient was infected while in Egypt”, said Dr Abdinasir Abubakar, manager of the Infectious Hazard Preparedness unit for the WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Region.
Egypt’s Ministry of Health is currently investigating the case.
The new variant, which originated in South Africa, has caused countries across the globe to impose travel restrictions. Nineteen countries have reported cases so far.
No Omicron cases have yet been detected in any of the 22 countries and territories in the Eastern Mediterranean region, which stretches from Morocco to Pakistan, Dr Abubakar said.
Kazakhstan has suspended flights with Egypt, citing the Belgium case.
Switzerland had already imposed travel restrictions on Egypt, among other countries, on Saturday.
Media reports suggested the Czech Republic’s first suspected Omicron case had travelled to Egypt, but Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said on Twitter that this was false information. The woman spent time in Namibia and flew back to the Czech Republic via South Africa and Dubai, he said.
The Eastern Mediterranean region has reported more than 16.76 million Covid-19 cases and more than 309,000 deaths since the pandemic began.
The Gamma variant of concern has been detected in six countries in the region, Delta in 16, Beta in 18 and Alpha in 21, according to the WHO.