December 1 Omicron coronavirus variant news

By Adam Renton, Brad Lendon, Sheena McKenzie, Ed Upright, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, December 2, 2021
12 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
2:40 a.m. ET, December 1, 2021

South Australia mandates quarantine for all international arrivals

From CNN's Lizzy Yee

All international arrivals to South Australia must undergo 14 days of hotel quarantine, effective immediately and regardless of vaccination status, according to the state government.

The state government's website says travelers will be tested upon arrival and subject to daily checks from a hotel health care team, with additional testing on the fifth day and 13th day of quarantine.

A spokesperson for the premier of South Australia said the new restrictions had been implemented because of concerns over the spread of the Omicron variant. So far, five Omicron cases have been confirmed in South Australia’s neighboring state of New South Wales.

The new restrictions are in addition to the national government’s mandatory quarantine for eight southern African countries, including South Africa and Botswana.

2:36 a.m. ET, December 1, 2021

Japan reports second Omicron variant case

From CNN's Junko Ogura in Tokyo 

Japan has identified its second case of the Omicron coronavirus variant, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said in a news briefing Wednesday. 

The infection was detected in a man in his 20s who arrived at Tokyo's Narita Airport from Peru on Saturday. The traveler is quarantined at a medical facility.  

Peru has not yet officially reported any cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant. 

It comes one day after Japan's first case was reported in a man in his 30s who traveled from Namibia to Tokyo on Sunday.

From Thursday, Japan will ban foreign nationals with Japanese residency from re-entering the country if they are traveling from 10 southern African nations, including South Africa.

2:21 a.m. ET, December 1, 2021

Zimbabwe imposes mandatory quarantine for all travelers

From CNN's Wayne Chang

Zimbabwe on Tuesday imposed mandatory quarantine for travelers and new restrictions on movement amid rising Covid-19 cases and to preempt the spread of the Omicron variant, state-run news agency New Ziana reported. 

In a televised address, Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa said effective immediately, all Zimbabwean nationals, residents and visitors must be tested upon arrival for Covid-19. They must also undergo quarantine at state-designated facilities at their own cost.

The discovery of the Omicron variant presents an “added risk, which compounds the burden we already face,” Mnangagwa said. “In view of this new, ominous development, (the) government has decided on new, enhanced measures to strengthen our national response, and to protect our nation from impact of a likely fourth wave, which the new variant, Omicron, will most certainly aggravate.” 

Lockdown measures: Under new restrictions announced Tuesday, all businesses must close at 7 p.m. local time, followed by a curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. Meanwhile, bars are only allowed to admit fully vaccinated patrons.  

The latest measures will be reviewed after two weeks, Mnangagwa said.

Zimbabwe is one of several African nations facing travel restrictions from countries around the world following the emergence of the Omicron variant.

As of Tuesday, Zimbabwe had reported a total of 134,625 Covid-19 cases, according to a tweet by the country’s Ministry of Health and Child Care.  

No Omicron cases have yet been detected in in Zimbabwe.

1:34 a.m. ET, December 1, 2021

Nigeria reports 3 Omicron cases with history of travel to South Africa

From CNN's AnneClaire Stapleton

Nigeria has detected three Omicron variant cases in travelers who arrived in the West African country from South Africa in the past week, according to local health authorities.

In a statement Wednesday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said these are the first known Omicron cases in Nigeria.

“The NCDC assumes Omicron is widespread globally given the increasing number of countries reporting this variant. Therefore, it is a matter of when, not if, we will identify more cases,” the statement said.

Nigeria now requires all inbound travelers to present a negative Covid-19 test result taken within 48 hours before departure, according to the NCDC.

"In addition, all outbound passengers regardless of the requirements of destination countries are expected to present evidence of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 PCR test done not later than 48 hours before departure,” the statement added.
12:36 a.m. ET, December 1, 2021

India's Maharashtra state reintroduces mandatory quarantine as new travel rules come into effect

From CNN's Manveena Suri in New Delhi

The Indian state of Maharashtra has reimposed mandatory quarantine for all international passengers arriving from "at risk" countries in response to the Omicron coronavirus variant.

According to a government statement Tuesday, travelers arriving from countries determined to be “at risk” by India’s Health Ministry must quarantine for seven days at their own cost at designated hotels.

As of November 30, "at risk" countries and territories include South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, the United Kingdom, Brazil, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel.

These passengers will also be required to take RT-PCR tests on the second, fourth and seventh day after their arrival.

In recent days, four passengers from South Africa and two from Nigeria have tested positive for Covid-19 after landing in Maharashtra. Their samples, as with all tests that now come back positive, have been sent for genome sequencing with contact tracing underway.

Maharashtra’s revised guidelines are effective immediately and coincide with new national travel rules coming into place.

India's new rules: From Wednesday, all international passengers arriving in India must submit a self-declaration form to an online government portal that includes a 14-day travel history and a negative Covid-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to their departure.

Travelers from countries deemed "at risk" will also now face further testing and surveillance, including a PCR test on arrival and must wait for the results before leaving or catching a connecting flight, according to guidelines issued by the Health Ministry on Sunday.

They will then have to quarantine at home for seven days and take another test on the eighth day.

12:25 a.m. ET, December 1, 2021

Omicron is a "somewhat different animal," and there's a lot more scientists need to learn, NIH director says

From CNN Health’s Jen Christensen

NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins
NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins (CNN)

It is still “very early days” with much more to learn about the Omicron variant of coronavirus, National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins said Tuesday.

“This is a somewhat different animal,” Collins told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. 

Israeli Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said Tuesday there is “already room for optimism” that people who are vaccinated will be protected from the Omicron variant. Collins urged caution, though, and warned there is still a lot more that scientists need to know about how much protection the vaccines offer and how much severe disease this variant will cause.

“I would not want anybody to look at that announcement from Israel and say, ‘well, now we know the answer,” Collins said. “We are going to take several more days, look at lots more cases, try to really size up how much protection is coming from the vaccine and how much could come from the boosters.”

Collins said there is a lot to learn about Omicron from South Africa. 

“We just learned about this Omicron variant one week ago and already South Africa has been on the Zoom calls with me at least three times in the last three days, telling us everything they know about what is going on. But they’re still collecting the data,” Collins said. 

Collins said he guesses, based on what scientists have seen from the protection the vaccines provided against the Delta variant, that immunization should help, especially if someone has been given a booster. Other studies have shown vaccines elicit strong immunity — with enough extra immunity to protect against variants.

“Your immune system is very clever. It not only boosts the level of antibodies, but it boosts the breadth of coverage that they have of spike proteins that your system hasn’t even seen before but is now ready for,” Collins said. “It is that phenomenon that I think is going to help us here.”  

Collins said it is one reason so many public health officials are pushing people to get boosted now.

“If Americans are tired of this and want to do something about it, as we are all tired of it, this is what you can do,” Collins said. “If you are not vaccinated yet, start tomorrow.” 
10:25 p.m. ET, November 30, 2021

CDC is working to revise testing requirements for travelers to the US

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working to revise testing requirements for inbound international travelers because of the new Omicron coronavirus variant, the agency confirmed in a statement Tuesday.

"A revised order would shorten the timeline for required testing for all international air travelers to one day before departure to the United States," a spokesman said in a statement.
"This strengthens already robust protocols in place for international travel, including requirements for foreign travelers to be fully vaccinated." 

The CDC currently requires fully vaccinated travelers to be tested three days before their flight's departure from a foreign country.

The CDC continues to recommend, but not require, that travelers get tested three to five days upon return and those who are unvaccinated should quarantine. The CDC did not offer a timeline for when any updated protocols could go into place.  

Officials across multiple government agencies huddled Tuesday night to discuss the potential changes, CNN reported earlier.

12:21 a.m. ET, December 1, 2021

South Korea reports record number of daily Covid-19 cases

From CNN’s Gawon Bae in Seoul, South Korea

A healthcare worker prepares to administer a Covid-19 test at a temporary testing site outside Seoul Station in Seoul, South Korea, on Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021.
A healthcare worker prepares to administer a Covid-19 test at a temporary testing site outside Seoul Station in Seoul, South Korea, on Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021. (SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

South Korea recorded 5,123 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, a record single-day figure, according to a news release from the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

KDCA said 5,075 of the new infections were locally transmitted, with 4,110 detected in the Seoul Metropolitan Area.

The country also reported 34 additional fatalities, bringing the total death toll to 3,658, according to KDCA. Some 723 patients are in critical condition, KDCA added.

South Korea has now reported a total of 452,350 cases.

As of Wednesday, 82.9% of the population had received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose and 79.9% had been fully vaccinated, KDCA said.

Suspected Omicron cases: South Korea is investigating at least two suspected cases of the Omicron variant, with results due on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, South Korea's Health Ministry and KDCA will form a task force along with related ministries to respond to the Omicron variant.

8:21 p.m. ET, November 30, 2021

Israeli health minister says there are "indications" Covid vaccine protects against Omicron

From CNN's Hamdi Alkhshali

There are “indications” that people who received a coronavirus vaccine booster are “protected” against the Omicron variant, Israeli Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said Tuesday.

“In the coming days we will have more accurate information about the efficacy of the vaccine against Omicron, but there is already room for optimism, and there are initial indications that those who are vaccinated with a vaccine still valid or with a booster will also be protected from this variant,” Horowitz said at a news conference.

Boosters have been available in Israel to anyone over age 16 since late August, five months after their second dose of the vaccine. A person is not considered fully vaccinated in the country until they have received a third dose, once they are eligible for it.