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Flu numbers continue to spike in capital

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Statistics show that flu numbers have continued to spike up in the past month, in the capital Male’.

Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) opened a flu clinic and statistics released by the flu clinic show grim numbers. The clinic on a daily basis sees at least 100 people, with numbers bottoming at 123 cases on October 8, Friday.

Health Protection Agency (HPA) had warned public about increasing common cold and influenza cases at the end of September. The Agency had urged public to keep masks on at all times, while out in public, to avoid crowds, and for high-risk individuals to get covid and flu shots as soon as possible.

HPA has also appealed to public to get tested for covid if flu-like symptoms are detected and to go straight to flu clinic, instead of the hospital.

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New coronavirus variant Omicron triggers market sell-off

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New concerns over the variant pummelled financial markets, especially stocks of airlines and others in the travel sector, and oil, which tumbled by about $10 a barrel.

The discovery of a new coronavirus variant named Omicron has triggered global alarm as countries rushed to suspend travel from southern Africa and stock markets on both sides of the Atlantic suffered their biggest falls in more than a year.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Friday Omicron may spread more quickly than other forms, and preliminary evidence suggested there is an increased risk of reinfection.

Those worries pummelled financial markets, especially stocks of airlines and others in the travel sector, and oil, which tumbled by about $10 a barrel.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 2.5 percent, its worst day since late October 2020, and European stocks had their worst day in 17 months.

Cruise operators Carnival Corp, Royal Caribbean Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line plunged more than 10 percent each, while shares in United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines slumped almost as much.

READ MORE: Global remittances to drop 20 percent amid coronavirus – World Bank

Too late for travel curbs?

Epidemiologists warned travel curbs may be too late to stop Omicron from circulating globally.

The new mutations were first discovered in South Africa and have since been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong.

The United States will restrict travel from South Africa and neighbouring countries effective Monday, a senior Biden administration official said.

Going further, Canada said it was closing its borders to those countries, following bans on flights announced by Britain, the European Union and others.

But it could take weeks for scientists to fully understand the variant’s mutations and whether existing vaccines and treatments are effective against it. Omicron is the fifth variant of concern designated by the WHO.

The variant has a spike protein that is dramatically different than the one in the original coronavirus that vaccines are based on, the UK Health Security Agency said, raising fears about how current vaccines will fare.

Scientists issued similar warnings.

“This new variant of the Covid-19 virus is very worrying. It is the most heavily mutated version of the virus we have seen to date,” said Lawrence Young, a virologist at Britain’s University of Warwick.

“Some of the mutations that are similar to changes we’ve seen in other variants of concern are associated with enhanced transmissibility and with partial resistance to immunity induced by vaccination or natural infection.”

Several other countries including India, Japan, Israel, Turkey, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates also toughened travel curbs.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies

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COVID 19

Omicron variant – What do we know about it?

Hamdhan Shakeel

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News of a new variant of the COVID-19 virus has taken the world by storm as countries rush to take preemptive measures to curb the spread of the new variant inside their borders. The latest variant identified as SARS-CoV-2 variant: B.1.1.529 was named as Omicron by the World health Organization, later declaring it’s as a “Variant of Concern”.

The Omicron variant was first identified on 24th November 2021 in South Africa. But the earliest confirmed case of the virus was from a sample collected on 09th November 2021.

While specimens were collected and sent to the Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution to assess its mutations. According to the World Health Organization, the number of infections has steeply increased in the areas where the Omicron variant was identified.

Preliminary studies on the variant suggests that compared to the other Variants of Concern, the Omicron variant has an unusually high number of mutations, leading to an increased chance of reinfection for those who had already contracted the virus and for those who are already immunized.

So far, the variant has been identified due to the PCR tests failure to target and detect one of the three genes. So far, the variant has been identified in Israel, Hongkong, Botswana and Belgium.

While the World Health Organization has maintained that to would take a few weeks to fully understand the full impact of the virus, UK Health Officials have warned that the vaccine would “almost certainly be less effective” against the Omicron variant.

British Professor of Structural biology James Naismith stated that “It’s bad news but it’s not doomsday.”. He further stated that the mutations spotted in the variant suggests more transmissibility, the variant’s ultimate transmissibility would be determined by how ell the mutations work together.

The variant is further expected to spread as only 24% of the South African population is vaccinated against COVID-19.

While medical experts warn preemptive measures, Australia, Brazil, UK, U.S., Iran, India and Japan has taken some form of measures against the spread of the variant through partial border lockdowns or through increased screening at borders.

In the Maldives, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has announced that additional booster shots for the public would be launched in mid-December in wake of the Omicron variant. He also stated that the Technical Advisory Group will be meeting today to decide on what actions to take against the Omicron variant.

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Tourism Minister cautions over rising covid numbers

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Tourism Minister Dr. Abdullah Mausoom has raised alarm over increasing covid numbers in the country.

He made the statement in a tweet posted last night.

Dr. Mausoom said that lack of social distancing and wearing masks had increased in a lot of countries following mass vaccination programs. He appealed not to let this happen in the Maldives.

Citing that with unity, anything was possible for Maldivians, Dr. Mausoom urged all to be cautious.

The alarm comes at a time when the country has seen an increase in covid numbers.

As of now, 31 islands are under monitoring as mandated by Health Protection Agency (HPA). Hithadhoo, Maradhoo, Maradhoo Feydhoo, and Feydhoo islands have been under monitoring from August 28th onward.

HPA reported that on Saturday, 184 had tested positive for covid. Out of this, 141 cases from the atolls.

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