First detected in South Africa, the potentially more virulent Omicron COVID-19 variant is now spreading around the world. Following its discovery last week, European countries were among the first to report cases on their territory.
Which countries have confirmed cases of the new variant? Which ones are waiting to be determined by sequencing results?
Here are the latest updates from Europe along with maps to track the variant as it spreads.
The Austrian government has so far confirmed one case: a man from the Tyrol region who had recently travelled to South Africa.
The country identified the first case of the Omicron variant on European soil on Friday. According to the Belgian public broadcaster RTBF, the patient is a young woman who had been in Egypt and had been showing symptoms for 11 days.
A regional hospital in Liberec, in the north of the Czech Republic, announced on Saturday the discovery of the Omicron variant in a patient with COVID-19.
The woman, who was vaccinated and had mild symptoms, had travelled to Namibia before returning to the Czech Republic via South Africa and Dubai.
On Sunday, Denmark’s health authorities confirmed the presence of the variant in the country. Two people are currently infected. A school in Odense was closed on Monday pending the results of sequencing analysis following a suspected case of COVID-19 discovered in a student.
Finland is currently investigating two suspected carriers of the variant. In both cases, they are believed to have been infected abroad.
The local authorities have ordered the two people in question to be put into isolation. They also indicated that it would take a few days to complete the sequencing analysis.
Nine cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 have been detected in France, the Ministry of Health said on Friday, December 3. Four cases had been confirmed in France on Thursday evening.
The first was in Reunion Island, in a traveller returning from Mauritius after a trip to Mozambique.
Two other cases were detected in Seine-et-Marne (near Paris) and Haut-Rhin (close to the German border), in people returning from South Africa. The last case concerned a resident of Seine-et-Marne, who had not been vaccinated and had travelled to Nigeria.
These people and their relatives have all been placed into isolation.
At the time of writing, two cases of infection with the Omicron variant have been confirmed by the health authorities in the southern German state of Bavaria. The two travellers arrived at Munich airport, having come back from South Africa.
A man on the Greek island of Crete who tested positive for COVID-19 is suspected of having the Omicron variant. He had recently returned from South Africa.
Despite putting border restrictions in place in the wake of the discovery of the Omicron variant, Icelandic health authorities announced on December 1 that they had detected a case of the variant in the country in a person who hadn’t travelled. Their conclusion was that the variant had been in Icelandic society for a while already.
The country has one confirmed Omicroncase. The man from the Naples region had returned from Mozambique, the Italian Higher Institute of Health (ISS), announced on Saturday.
The ISS said the patient and his family are in good health.
Ireland’s first confirmed case of the Omicron variant was identified through “blind luck,” according to Dr Cillian de Gascun, director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, who was speaking at a press briefing on Wednesday. The case involved a person who recently returned from a country in southern Africa before travel restrictions were imposed and then developed symptoms which necessitated a PCR test.
With 13 now confirmed cases, the Netherlands has one of the highest numbers of new variant infections in Europe.
So far, 61 recently arrived passengers from South Africa have tested positive for COVID-19. The Dutch authorities have confirmed the presence of the new variant in at least 14 of them.
“The investigation is not yet complete. The new variant could be found in other samples,” said the National Institute of Public Health (RIVM).
Tests are underway to determine whether 13 players from the Belenenses SAD football club have been infected with the new variant following a trip to South Africa by a member of their squad.
In a press release on Monday morning, the National Health Institute (Insa) revealed that “preliminary tests strongly suggest that all thirteen cases (…) are linked to the variant of concern Omicron”.
Further tests are to be carried out.
One confirmed case of the Omicron variant has been detected in Spain, a Madrid hospital announced Monday.
“The microbiology department of the Gregorio Marañon Hospital in Madrid has announced the first confirmation of the Omicron variant in Spain,” the public institution said on Twitter, adding that it was “a traveller from South Africa” and that he was “doing well”.
A case was detected and confirmed by the Swedish National Public Health Agency on Monday. The person is a returnee from South Africa.
The Swiss health authorities announced on Sunday the discovery of a “first probable case” in a person returning from South Africa.
As of Saturday, the number of reported cases in England and Scotland rose to 150 after the discovery of 75 more suspected cases in England alone.
So far, 29 have been confirmed as the Omicron variant through genomic sequencing.
The first reported cases in the UK were six people in Scotland who tested positive for the new variant and a further three in England, bringing the initial total number of cases in the whole country to nine on Monday morning.
Four of the Scottish cases are not thought to be related to people who have travelled to Africa, according to Scottish Deputy First Minister John Swinney.
Wei Shen Lim, chairman of a UK government sub-committee on vaccinations, advised at a press briefing on Monday that all adults aged 18-34 should now be included in the booster programme.