Americas

Brazil reports first Latin American cases of Omicron variant

2 minute read

A nurse carries out a swab test on a patient as part of the new measures of Rio de Janeiro's government against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Sao Goncalo, near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, December 4, 2020. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

RIO DE JANEIRO/SAO PAULO, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Brazilian health regulator Anvisa said on Tuesday that two Brazilians had tested positive for the Omicron COVID-19 variant, the first reported cases in Latin America.

Anvisa said a traveler arriving in Sao Paulo from South Africa and his wife, who had not traveled, both tested positive for the new variant, adding to concerns of global Omicron spread before recent travel bans went into effect.

The traveler landed at Sao Paulo's Guarulhos international airport on Nov. 23 with a negative test for COVID-19. But before a planned return trip, the couple tested positive and the samples were sent for further analysis which identified the Omicron variant.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

The traveler arrived in Sao Paulo before the World Health Organization first flagged the Omicron variant publicly and before Brazil resolved on Friday to suspend flights from South Africa and five other southern African countries. read more

A second test on the samples confirmed the variant, the state of Sao Paulo said.

The two Brazilians who tested positive for the variant are missionaries, Sao Paulo Health Secretary Jean Gorinchteyn told CNN Brasil, adding that there was no documentation to suggest they had been vaccinated.

Following the Omicron confirmation, Sao Paulo state government said it would review a planned easing of rules around the use of masks.

Omicron was first identified officially in South Africa last week, but data now shows it was circulating before then and has since been detected in more than a dozen countries. read more

Scientists around the globe are rushing to determine if the new variant, which has significant mutations compared to previous strains, is more infectious, deadly or able to evade vaccines. That work is expected to take weeks. read more

In the meantime, countries around the world have imposed travel restrictions, mainly on flights coming from southern Africa despite warnings from the WHO that blanket travel bans would not stop the new variant's spread. read more

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
Reporting by Pedro Fonseca Writing by Stephen Eisenhammer Editing by Brad Haynes, Sandra Maler and Marguerita Choy

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

More from Reuters