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Saturday , January 22 2022

Omicron muddles New Year travelers from Kuwait

Delta measures work against variant

KUWAIT CITY, Dec 4, (Agencies): Following the announcement of the nascent Covid-19 mutant “Omicron” on Nov 28, about 20% of the residents of Kuwait have either been forced to change or cancel altogether their New Year travel plans to all destinations fearing the Kuwaiti authorities may react to fears of the virus spreading and close the airports, reports Al-Rai daily. As for the new travel reservations for the New Year holidays, the daily quoting sources said the demand for travel to Turkey and Cairo, Egypt is weak while high ticket prices to Dubai fails to lure the travelers. Meanwhile, the sources said the tourism and travel offices in Kuwait reported a rise in the sales of about 115 percent from January to September 2021, compared to the same period in 2020, which was 101 million dinars. The sources added, the trend of sales was upward from January to September 2021 due to the easing of travel restrictions and the start of a gradual return to normalcy to the pre-Corona period although the sales are comparatively weak compared to corresponding period in 2019 which was 308 million dinars. The tourism sources indicated the market began to regain its activity and recover from the effects of “Corona”, with travelers adapting to the new requirements imposed by the pandemic expecting sales figures to return to what they were before “Corona” in 2023 but ‘Omicron’ has put a dent in all expectations.

The number of travel offices in Kuwait has reached 430 and the monthly losses during the height of “Corona” from sales were approximately 34 million dinars. Nonetheless, sources say “Omicron” has not affected the travel sector in Kuwait much, as there are strict procedures in place and majority of the people in Kuwait have been vaccinated, travel almost all over the world has been restricted to those who have taken the jabs and PCR test has been made mandatory. South African scientists are warning that reinfections among people who’ve already battled COVID- 19 appear to be more likely with the new omicron variant than with earlier coronavirus mutants. A research group has been tracking reinfections in South Africa and reported a jump with the arrival of omicron that they hadn’t seen when two previous variants, including the extracontagious delta variant, moved through the country.

Undergone
The findings, posted online Thursday, are preliminary and haven’t yet undergone scientific review. Nor did the researchers say what portion of the reinfections were confirmed as omicron cases – or whether they caused serious illness. But the timing of the reinfection spike suggests that omicron “demonstrates substantial population- level evidence for evasion of immunity from prior infection,” they wrote. “Previous infection used to protect against delta and now with omicron it doesn’t seem to be the case,” one of the researchers, Anne von Gottberg of the University of Witwatersrand, said at a World Health Organization briefing on Thursday. The Study also did not examine the protection offered by vaccination. The vaccines trigger different layers of immune response, some to fend off infection and others to prevent severe disease if someone does become infected. “We believe that vaccines will still, however, protect against severe disease,” von Gottberg said. The newest variant was discovered just over a week ago by scientists in South Africa and Botswana, and it’s now been found in multiple countries. Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it can thwart the vaccine.

Protection
But learning how much protection is provided by prior infection is important, especially in parts of the world where much of the population remains to be vaccinated. The Study suggests “omicron will be able to overcome natural and probably vaccine-induced immunity to a significant degree,” Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said in a written response to the findings. Just how much “is still unclear though it is doubtful that this will represent complete escape. ” As of Friday, 30 additional Coronavirus variant Omicron cases have been confirmed in the European Union and European Economic Area (EU/EEA), contributing to an overall total of 109 confirmed cases so far, said a medical center. Cases have been reported by 16 EU countries, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), said in a statement. World Health Organization officials in the Western Pacific say border closures adopted by some countries may buy time to deal with the omicron coronavirus variant, but measures put in place and experience gained in dealing with the delta variant should remain the foundation for fighting the pandemic. While a few regional countries are facing surges, COVID-19 cases and deaths in many others have decreased and plateaued, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Dr. Takeshi Kasai told reporters Friday in a virtual news conference broadcast from Manila, Philippines.

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