Omicron COVID variant was in Europe before South African scientists detected and flagged it to the world


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[–]FarawayFairways 259 points260 points261 points 2 (10 children)

Kinda just shows that South African politicians were right to say they were being punished for reporting the omicron variant.

They were, and Cyril was right when he said that the science didn't support it either. No virus as infectious as this is going to be turned back by border control (Macron did the same last year when the UK reported B1.1.7)

But before Reddit gets too sanctimonious on this, let's not forget that a few days ago this sub was full of people calling for the shut down of international air travel. Probably the same people who blamed China for sandbagging information as well

So how do we reconcile all this?

We appeal for countries to under take full disclosure as we widely recognise that those which do help? Yet the moment someone does we leap to isolate them and damage their economy in the process. What possible incentive to do we offer these countries to disclose information?

Ultimately if you game this out, then countries will simply withdraw from sequencing or just not do any (like France) and then blame everyone else

[–]Cyphierre 106 points107 points108 points  (26 children)

If Omicron spreads faster than Delta, i.e. its R₀ is significantly higher, and its symptoms are much less severe and resemble nothing more than the common cold (IF..IF), then Omicron would be like a self-spreading vaccine.

If it plays out like that then the death rate and hospitalizations would drop, and after a couple days of mild symptoms people would be inoculated for the next few months. Also, since Omicron spreads much faster than the other variants (again, IF..IF) then the next variant anyone is likely to contract when the inoculation wears off will again be the “vaccine-variant” (Omicron) instead of one of the dangerous ones.

It it happens like that then Covid turns into a common cold virus and disappears into the background of the usual minor illnesses we already treat as an inconvenience instead of an “illness”.

[–]sniper1rfa 36 points37 points38 points  (1 child)

By the time you have enough cases to detect a variant, it's already spread.


I keep saying this, but this pandemic has proven that most people really, really suck at math; particularly math that involves very small or very large numbers.

Something that can hang out in your system for a week or two, combined with easy transmission and a developed country with airports, will have spread globally by the time you notice it - the odds of getting lucky are zero to several decimal places.

[–]IrishiPrincess 153 points154 points155 points  (20 children)

But the then President didn’t ban travel from China. He “restricted” it.

“The U.S. restrictions that took effect Feb. 2 2020 continued to allow travel to the U.S. from China’s Hong Kong and Macao territories over the past five months. The Associated Press reported that more than 8,000 Chinese and foreign nationals based in those territories entered the U.S. in the first three months after the travel restrictions were imposed.

Additionally, more than 27,000 Americans returned from mainland China in the first month after the restrictions took effect. U.S. officials lost track of more than 1,600 of them who were supposed to be monitored for virus exposure.”

Edited to add the year

[–]Devajeetd 173 points174 points175 points  (10 children)

prepare for it's arrival?

That's the whole point - it had 'arrived' in Europe way before the South Africans decided to be nice and report the new variant to the world.

But you know what this selective ban is gonna do? Discourage the few countries with large gene sequencing capabilities from disclosing any new development in the future.

[–]IICVX 95 points96 points97 points  (29 children)

Best thing to do is have everyone that comes in from out of the country is to quarantine for two weeks. I'm not saying its easy, or even doable.

It's 100% doable, you just have to prioritize public health over money.

Pay anyone who arrives from an international trip to stay in a hotel by their port of entry for two weeks, with full room service. Pretty much every country can afford that.

[–]ben7337 111 points112 points113 points  (13 children)

Japan does this, but the trick is the countries don't pay for it. The people travelling do.

Travelling to visit family/pleasure? You better have a month off and money for those 2 weeks in quarantine.

Travelling for work? Your company has to pay and they will certainly only send you if it's absolutely necessary given the added costs and time spent in quarantine.

[–]No-Scholar4854 248 points249 points250 points  (104 children)

It doesn’t have to be 100% containment,
I haven’t heard anyone official claim that travel bans will stop Omicron from reaching their country, and most have explicitly acknowledged that it was probably already there.

They can slow things down.

Say your country has 10 cases of Omicron already, and it’s spreading fast enough to double every week.

You also have flights from South Africa bringing in 20 cases of Omicron per day (e.g. the Netherlands last week) - so 140 per week.

Without travel bans you’re looking at:

  • Week 0: 10
  • Week 1: 20 (community) + 140 (imported) = 160
  • Week 2: 320 + 140 = 460
  • Week 3: 920 + 140 = 1060
  • Week 4: 1120 + 140 = 1260

With travel bans:

  • Week 0: 10
  • Week 1: 20
  • Week 2: 40
  • Week 3: 80
  • Week 4: 160

Obviously the travel bans aren’t going to be perfect, and we’re never going to see that, but particularly early on the travel bans can significantly reduce the spread and buy us time.

It’s not a theoretical discussion either. We know travel bans work, look at Australia and NZ. They come with costs and all sorts of long term problems, but they do work.

[–]Benocrates 184 points185 points186 points  (22 children)

We know travel bans work, look at Australia and NZ. They come with costs and all sorts of long term problems, but they do work.

Universal travel bans work far better than country/region specific bans. The reason to avoid these partial bans is because it incentivizes countries to not report new strains/variants/viruses and incentivizes individuals to sneak around the ban in less tracible ways.

The evidence is clear that travel bans need to be universal or not applied, and that entry quarantines, tests, and contact tracing are highly effective and should be implemented rather than partial travel bans.

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