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WHO says PCR tests detect Omicron, new COVID-19 variant has higher reinfection risk

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The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Sunday that standard PCR tests for COVID-19 can detect infection with Omicron, and that the new variant has an increased risk of reinfection, according to preliminary evidence.

“The widely-used PCR tests continue to detect infection, including infection with Omicron, as we have seen with other variants. Studies are ongoing to determine whether there is any impact on other types of tests, including rapid antigen detection tests,” WHO said in an statement.

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The organization had declared on Friday that Omicron, which was detected earlier this month in South Africa, was a variant of concern.

WHO said preliminary evidence suggests that Omicron has an increased risk of reinfection, meaning that people who have previously had COVID-19 could become reinfected with Omicron more easily, when compared to other variants.

It is not yet clear where Omicron spreads more easily from one person to the next, and studies are underway to determine its transmissibility compared to other variants, including the globally dominant Delta.

It is also not clear whether Omicron causes more severe disease when compared to infections with other variants, and there is no current information that suggest that the symptoms caused by the new variant are different from any other variant.

The health organization said that it is working to understand the potential impact of Omicron on the effectiveness of vaccines and treatments.

“Understanding the level of severity of the Omicron variant will take days to several weeks,” WHO said.

Read more:

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Omicron: New COVID-19 variant spreads to more countries

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UAE reports 3,014 COVID cases, four new deaths in 24 hours

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The UAE reported on Thursday 3,014 COVID-19 infections and four new deaths in 24 hours after conducting 504,831 tests.

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Saudi Arabia reports 5,591 new COVID-19 infections, two deaths in 24 hours

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The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia reported 5,591 COVID-19 cases and two new deaths in 24 hours, according to the Ministry of Health.

This brings the total number of cases in the Kingdom to 638,327.

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Thailand to resume quarantine-free travel from Feb. 1 after pause due to omicron

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Thailand will resume its quarantine-free travel scheme from February 1, officials said Thursday, after the program was suspended due to the fast-spreading omicron COVID-19 variant.

Read the latest updates in our dedicated coronavirus section.

Pandemic travel curbs have hammered the kingdom’s tourism-dominated economy, sending visitor numbers dwindling to a trickle.

Fully vaccinated travelers will now be able to enter under the “test and go” scheme as long as they take COVID-19 tests on the first and fifth days after arriving, spokesman for the country’s COVID-19 taskforce Taweesin Visanuyothin told reporters.

Visitors will have to isolate at a hotel while waiting for their test results and will be required to download a tracking app to ensure they comply with the rules.

Seeking to bounce back from its worst economic performance since the 1997 Asian financial crisis, Thailand launched the “test and go” scheme in November as an alternative to two weeks’ hotel quarantine.

The program was suspended late last month over fears about omicron, but with deaths and hospitalizations not spiking, Taweesin said it could resume, though the authorities will keep it under review.

“In case there are more infections or the situation changes, there will be a re-assessment for inbound travelers and adjust toward the sandbox scheme,” Taweesin said.

Under the sandbox program launched last year as a first step towards resuming tourism, fully jabbed visitors spend seven nights in certain designated locations, such as the resort island of Phuket, before being allowed to travel on to the rest of Thailand.

In a further relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions, restaurants will be allowed to serve alcohol until 11:00 p.m. – easing the current 9:00 p.m. cut-off.

The tourism ministry estimates that some five million foreign visitors will come to Thailand in 2022 — down from nearly 40 million in the year before the pandemic.

Read more:

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Thai prison set on fire during riot over COVID-19 cluster

COVID-19 cases rose by more than 50 percent, deaths stable: WHO

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