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
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5:40 a.m. ET, December 1, 2021

Japan requests airlines to stop taking new inbound international flight reservations

From CNN's Junko Ogura in Tokyo 

Police officers patrol an empty check-in area in a departure hall at Narita Airport in Japan on November 30.
Police officers patrol an empty check-in area in a departure hall at Narita Airport in Japan on November 30. (Toru Hanai/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism has requested airlines suspend taking new reservations on all inbound international flights to the country until the end of December, in response to the Omicron variant.

The request has been made to all airlines -- including Japanese and international airlines operating in Japan -- but at this time is not a mandate, a ministry official told CNN. 

The ministry has requested this apply to all travelers, including Japanese citizens, beginning Wednesday.

CNN is reaching out to airlines operating in Japan for a response, but has not yet heard back. 

Last month Japan began the process of rolling back some of its more stringent travel restrictions. However, on Monday it moved to close its borders to all foreign nationals in light of the new risk posed by Omicron.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the new measures would be temporarily until more information is known about the new variant. 

Japan confirmed its first case of the Omicron variant on Tuesday. The variant was detected in a man in his 30s who traveled from Namibia to Tokyo. The man is now in quarantine at a government designated facility and his close contacts have been traced, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters Tuesday.

4:47 a.m. ET, December 1, 2021

German state confirms handful of new Omicron cases, mostly travelers from South Africa

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz and Wayne Chang

The southwestern German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg on Wednesday confirmed four cases of the Omicron variant, mostly in people returning home from South Africa.

Three of the four infected people returned from a business trip to South Africa on November 26 and 27, according to a government statement. The fourth person is a family member of one of the returnees. 

All four people are fully vaccinated and live in the Alb-Donau district of the city of Ulm, in southern Germany.

They are showing moderate symptoms and are in quarantine at home, together with members of their household, the statement says. 

It brings the total reported Omicron cases in Germany to nine.

3:43 a.m. ET, December 1, 2021

Saudi Arabia reports first Omicron case

From CNN's Schams Elwazer 

Saudi Arabia has confirmed its first case of the Omicron coronavirus variant in the country, state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Wednesday.

The positive case came from a Saudi citizen traveling from a north African country, SPA reported. The infected person and their contacts are in quarantine.

Saudi Arabia is the 22nd country to report cases of the Omicron variant.

3:20 a.m. ET, December 1, 2021

Australia reports seventh Omicron variant case

From CNN's Lizzy Yee

Australia has identified its seventh case of the Omicron coronavirus in a traveler who arrived in the country last week, health authorities said Wednesday.

A statement from New South Wales Health said the traveler — who was fully vaccinated — had recently visited southern Africa and landed in Sydney from Qatar on November 25. The traveler tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday and is isolating in Sydney. 

At least five passengers on the same flight — QR908 from Doha to Sydney on November 25 — have tested positive for Covid-19, according to NSW Health. Investigations into the positive cases are ongoing, but so far include two confirmed Omicron infections.

The traveler had visited a pharmacy in the state of New South Wales before testing positive for the virus. 

Effective Tuesday, all travelers arriving in New South Wales who have been in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini and Malawi during the 14-day period before their arrival must undergo hotel quarantine for 14 days, irrespective of their vaccination status.

There are now seven confirmed cases of the Omicron Covid-19 variant in Australia — six in New South Wales, and one in the Northern Territory.

2:52 a.m. ET, December 1, 2021

France extends southern Africa flights ban

From CNN’s Joseph Ataman and Pierre Bairin in Paris

France has lengthened its ban on flights from seven countries in southern Africa until Saturday, European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune told RTL France radio on Wednesday.

The flight ban on South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe was implemented on November 26 in response to the Omicron coronavirus variant’s spread. It was originally set to expire on Wednesday.

Beaune said “extremely strengthened” measures were now in place to allow French residents in these countries to return to France via other routes. These include pre-arrival and post-departure testing and quarantines, he said.

France was among 23 European countries that had brought in similar measures to restrict access or suspend flights from southern Africa, Beaune added.

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.