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First two Omicron cases in S. America identified in Brazil

WASHINGTON, Nov 30 (KUNA) -- The Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency (Anvisa) said Tuesday that two Brazilians had tested positive for the new Omicron coronavirus variant, which drew prompt response from US authorities. A passenger, who had flown in from South Africa on the 23rd with a negative Covid-19 test result, did a new test along with his wife to prepare for a return flight back to South Africa when the results came back positive. The Agency emphasizes that the passenger's entry into Brazil took place on 11/23, that is, before the worldwide notification on the identification of the new variant.
Brazil has since suspended flights from South Africa, it said, adding that samples are being sent to another laboratory for confirmatory analysis.
This marks the first two Omicron infections in Latin America, which makes Brazil the 20th country to report the new variant.
Accordingly, the US health authorities tightened surveillance at main airports in a bid to prevent the spread of the pandemic into the United States.
Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the CDC is evaluating how to make international travel as safe as possible, including critical partner testing closer to the time of flights and considerations around additional post arrival testing and self-quarantine.
"Currently CDC is expanding a surveillance program with XpresCheck to JFK, San Francisco, Newark and Atlanta airports - four of the busiest international airports in the country," she said at a White House Covid-19 briefing.
"This program allows for increased Covid testing for specific international arrivals, increasing our capacity to identify those with Covid-19 on arrival to the United States and enhancing our surveillance for the Omicron variant. "Thanks to our updated travel policies earlier this month, we are also actively working with the airlines to collect passenger information that can be used by CDC and local public health jurisdictions to enhance contact tracing and post-arrival follow-up should a case be identified in a traveler," Walensky added. (end) rsr.gb