First omicron case in Tunisia reported in passenger from Turkey

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Although Turkish authorities say the omicron variant of the novel coronavirus has not yet been detected in the country, a man traveling from Turkey tested positive for the omicron variant in Tunisia, Deutsche Welle reported on Monday.

Dr. Hachemi Louzer, a member of Tunisia’s COVID-19 task force, said the man was from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He tested positive Friday at the Tunis–Carthage International Airport after arriving from İstanbul, and a subsequent screening of the sample at the Pasteur Institute for Public Health in Tunis confirmed the Omicron variant, Louzer said.

Several of his fellow travelers, including his brother, who tested negative for COVID-19 have been quarantined, he said.

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced in a statement on Twitter on Friday that the omicron variant has not yet been detected in Turkey. However, Professor Alper Şener,  a member of the scientific board advising the government on the pandemic, told the Anadolu news agency on Sunday that the omicron variant is expected to soon be reported in Turkey as it has begun to quickly spread among countries.

Turkey reported 19,357 new coronavirus cases in 24 hours on Sunday and a daily death toll of 185. A total of 81.61 percent of the country’s adult population has been vaccinated.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic in Turkey in March 2020, the government has faced accusations from its critics and the medical community of underreporting coronavirus cases in order to mask the real scale of the pandemic in the country.

The omicron variant was first announced by South Africa but has since been discovered to have been present earlier in Europe.

It has prompted governments around the globe to reimpose travel restrictions, despite warnings from the World Health Organization that this could do more harm than good.

On Friday the WHO said it had not seen any reports of deaths related to the new omicron variant.

The WHO has said it will take several weeks to get a full picture of the transmissibility and severity of Omicron and to assess how vaccines, tests and treatments hold up against the new variant.

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