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Japan proves first case of Omicron variant





India pledges to send Covid vaccines to Africa





Despite reports of milder symptoms Omicron should not be underestimated, experts say.

Anecdotal reports out of South Africa suggest the new variant may cause only mild illness. But although past variants of the coronavirus have been associated with different symptoms and severity, it would be dangerous to assume that Omicron is a viral pussy cat.

At a briefing convened by South Africa’s Department of Health on Monday, Unben Pillay, a GP practising in Midrand on the outskirts of Johannesburg, said that while “it is nevertheless early days” the situations he was seeing were typically mild: “We are seeing patients present with dry cough, fever, night sweats and a lot of body pains. Vaccinated people tend to do much better.”

Meanwhile, Pretoria-based GP Dr Angelique Coetzee said many of the patients she’d seen were presenting with uncommon symptoms, particularly harsh tiredness, and none were reporting loss of taste or smell.

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China finds sudden sudden increase in Russian border city

China is battling a sudden cluster of situations in a Russian border city, after three workers in the Inner Mongolia city of Manzhouli, were found to have Covid-19 during routine testing, prompting mass tests of the 300,000 city residents.

The national health commission reported 21 new locally transmitted situations on Monday, 20 of which were all in Manzhouli.

The mass detection has happened suddenly. Local media said two asymptomatic situations – which China classifies separately to confirmed situations – were detected on 27 November.

Contact tracing and further testing had identified another 27 by Monday. Several cargo yards have been closed as a consequence, and flights, trains, coaches, taxis and city buses have been suspended.

Schools have moved online, and hospitals have been limited to emergency care only.

Authorities have also imposed controls on city exits, temporarily closed markets and cultural, sports, leisure and entertainment establishments, and put limits on weddings, religious gatherings, and restaurants.

No confirmed situations had been reported from Inner Mongolia in more than two weeks, since the detection of four situations on 13 November, in Alxa League more than 2,300km to the south-west. Neighbouring province Heilongjiang this week suspended some rail freight imports to prevent possible transmission, local authorities said.

Additional reporting by Xiaoqian Zhu









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