Oman reports first case of Covid-19 variant in traveller from UK

The man developed respiratory symptoms in quarantine after testing negative for the disease

Oman reported its first case of a new Covid-19 variant as analysts gave a warning that cases could surge owing to borders reopening.

The highly contagious strain was first detected in the UK in September last year and has since been detected in countries around the world.

The Ministry of Health said lab tests found a British man had the variant on Tuesday. He is a resident and recently returned to Muscat from the UK when he developed respiratory symptoms in quarantine.

But the ministry said the man tested negative for the virus before his flight and again on arrival.

On Wednesday, Oman reported 144 cases of Covid-19 and two deaths. The number of people to have been infected is now 129,888 and the death toll is 1,504.

Health analysts said the country should expect more cases of the variant in the coming weeks.

"This will not be an isolated case. We should see more people with variant cases in the next few weeks," said Dr Yassen Al Harthy, a retired infectious diseases specialist.

“We have already opened the borders of the country and I am not exaggerating when I say we are wide open to the variant from travellers arriving here.”

He said Covid-19 tests were not always accurate.

"It depends on the time you did it and the immunity system in your body. Some questions have always been raised with the competence of the lab technicians who are taking the tests," said Dr Al Harthy.

In the case of the British man, Dr Al Harthy said the test registered a false negative.

Oman began a Covid-19 vaccination programme on December 27 and more than 10,000 people have been inoculated so far.

Omani Minister of Health Dr Ahmed Al Saidi implored the public to register for the vaccine.

"There are no vaccination side effects reported. We urge more people to do it. People should not listen to the negative comments on social media. The vaccination is safe and it is for your protection and the whole community," Oman media reported Dr Al Saidi as saying on Wednesday.