Middle East

Saudi Arabia reports first Omicron case coming from north Africa- SPA

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A social distancing sign is seen on the floor as a Saudi man man wearing a face mask walks with his luggage at the King Khalid International Airport, after Saudi authorities lifted the travel ban on its citizens after fourteen months due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 16, 2021. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri

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CAIRO, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia confirmed its first case of the Omicron COVID-19 variant coming from a north African country, state news agency SPA reported on Wednesday.

SPA, quoting a statement from the kingdom's health ministry, said authorities had isolated the person and people who were in contact with them.

It is the first Omicron variant case reported in the Middle East and North Africa. The ministry said the person was a Saudi national who had travelled from a North African country, without giving further details.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Monday that the heavily mutated Omicron coronavirus variant was likely to spread internationally and poses a very high risk of infection surges that could have "severe consequences" in some places.

The Saudi ministry urged people to complete their vaccination and ordered travellers to respect self-isolation and testing rules.

Omicron was first reported on Nov. 24 in southern Africa, where infections have risen steeply. It has since spread to more than a dozen countries, many of which have imposed travel restrictions to try to seal themselves off.

Japan on Monday joined Israel and Morocco in saying it would completely close its borders.

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Reporting by Enas Alashray, writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Alex Richardson

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