Saudi Arabia confirmed its first case of Omicron infection, a Saudi national who recently returned from a North African country and tested positive for the Omicron variant of Covid 19. The person’s primary contact has also been identified, the Ministry of Health said.
The information was conveyed by a spokesman for the Ministry of Health, Dr. Muhammad Al-Abdel Ali, at an extraordinary press conference in Riyadh that took place on Wednesday.
Dr. Al-Abdel Ali said that the kingdom would implement strict measures to deal with new cases detected to prevent further spread of the infection. Those who are infected as well as those who come in contact with them will be immediately isolated by following all precautions.
He also explained that the mutation of the coronavirus, which is now being monitored in more than 21 countries around the world, could spread rapidly given the lack of immunization against COVID 19, which increases the chances of frequent emergence of new mutants.
Although information about the prevalence and severity of Omicron is incomplete, the spokesperson said that the effect of this new mutant is not much different from the previous variant and that research is still ongoing to understand more aspects of Omicron.
Previously the World Health Organization had designated Omicron as a “variant of concern” because of its changing behavior and the severity of the infection, and its response to the vaccine, the speed of its spread, and the possibility of further mutations.
The emergence of this new variant in South Africa quickly sparked fear and eventually prompted restrictions on international flights in several countries in the world, such as the United States, Britain, Japan, and Australia.
Concerns also arose in Saudi Arabia, especially after the confirmation of the first Omicron case. Although the kingdom has not made an official announcement regarding the clarity of flight restrictions, the country is expected to impose restrictions on international flights soon.
And if the decision is really to be taken by Saudi Arabia, it will also affect international Umrah regulations, which have recently been relaxed. In early November, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced that the kingdom had allowed overseas pilgrims to apply for Umrah’s permit through a mobile application as the coronavirus precautionary measures had began easing.