(AFP) The government of Sao Paulo, Brazil, confirmed on Tuesday two positive cases of the new variant of the omicron coronavirus, the first in Brazil and in Latin America, in travelers who arrived from South Africa before that country announced the discovery of that strain in its territory.
The Sao Paulo Health Secretariat “confirmed this Tuesday the first two imported cases of the new omicron variant of the new coronavirus in Brazil,” that office detailed in a statement.
Before the state government’s announcement, Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa had reported the two cases as “preliminary” positives.
“The confirmation was made after genetic sequencing in the laboratory of the Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein, with quality already endorsed and verified by the Adolfo Lutz Institute”, indicated the Secretary of Health of Sao Paulo.
Those infected are “a 41-year-old man and a 37-year-old woman, from South Africa,” who “disembarked in Brazil on November 23 and did a new test before embarking (to South Africa) on the 25th,” the report specified.
According to reports, this missionary couple living in the African country had mild symptoms at the time of the PCR test, and since then they have been in home isolation and under monitoring, as well as their relatives.
It has not yet been confirmed whether those infected have been vaccinated, Jeancarlo Gorinchteyn, Sao Paulo state health secretary, told CNN, indicating that no immunization records had been found in the local system.
“Today we have an even greater incentive for people to continue to protect and immunize themselves,” urged Gorinchteyn.
The official tried to calm down and wait to see how the situation evolves, because in September, when a strong impact from the delta variant was expected, it was contained by the advance of vaccination, he evaluated.
More cases in analysis
Health authorities of the most populous state in Brazil, with more than 46 million inhabitants, also reported that a suspicious case reported on Sunday, of a passenger from Ethiopia who visited South Africa, is under analysis.
Other possible infections with the omicron variant are also being studied: one in Belo Horizonte, in Minas Gerais, and one more in the capital, Brasilia.
Brazil closed its air borders from Monday to six African countries (South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe) to prevent the spread of the new variant of coronavirus.
Over the weekend, Anvisa recommended that the government ban the entry of foreigners from Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia. However, the government of Jair Bolsonaro has not reported new measures.
Anvisa recalled this Tuesday that, according to current regulations, the Brazilian traveler who has passed through countries with flight restrictions fourteen days before boarding, to enter Brazil, “must remain in quarantine for fourteen days in the city of their final destination. ”.
In Sao Paulo, the presence of the new coronavirus variant called into question the flexibility of the use of masks in open spaces, in which Rio de Janeiro, for example, has already advanced.
Last week, the state government announced the end of the obligation from December 11. But this Tuesday, after confirming the omicron cases, Governor Joao Doria asked the Scientific Committee for a “new evaluation” to stop the flexibility in the use of facial protection.
Brazil has accumulated more than 614,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, the second country with the most deaths in absolute numbers after the United States. More than 60% of a total population of 213 million are fully immunized.