Saudi Arabia isolates first Omicron case, identifies contacts

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RIYADH — Saudi Arabia has isolated its first confirmed case of Omicron infection and identified the person’s primary contacts, the Ministry of Health has announced.

Addressing an extraordinary press conference in Riyadh on Wednesday, Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Muhammad Al-Abdel Ali said confirmed that a Saudi national who had arrived back from a North African country has tested positive for the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

He said the Kingdom applies precise measures if any new case is detected to prevent the spread of the virus. The infected cases and those who were in contact with them are kept in isolation and all preventive measures are followed.

Dr. Al-Abdel Ali said the coronavirus mutation has been monitored in more than 21 countries of the world and the rapid spread has been attributed to a lack of immunization against COVID-19, which increases the chances of frequent emergence of new mutants.

The spokesman said the World Health Organization has designated Omicron as a “variant of concern”, because of its changing behavior and the severity of infection, its response to vaccines, the speed of its spread and the possibility of further mutations.

Dr. Al-Abdel Ali pointed out that studies are still ongoing as available information about Omicron’s prevalence and severity is not complete.

He said the effects of the new mutant are not much different from the previous variants.

The spokesman indicated that the strong reaction to Omicron was because it is new and active as well as a lack of information about it.

He said public reaction about the new variant may be different, but the official scientific platforms have taken the same approach as with the previous mutations.

The Health Ministry spokesman warned the public against spreading rumors, noting that everyone should be careful to disseminate correct information available from official sources.

He reiterated the importance of taking all precautionary measures, such as completing immunization, maintaining social distance and wearing face masks everywhere including open areas.

Dr. Al-Abdel Ali called on travelers to fully adhere to the precautionary measures.

Compliance with the requirements of the health status in the “Tawakkalna” application is very important and is everyone’s responsibility, he said, adding that anyone who violates the requirements will be penalized.

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