Coronavirus: South Korea reports first cases of omicron variant

SEOUL — South Korea on Wednesday reported its first cases of the new coronavirus variant, omicron.

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According to The Associated Press, the country on Wednesday reported that “five people linked to international arrivals” tested positive for the variant. The cases include a vaccinated couple who recently traveled from Nigeria to South Korea, as well as two relatives and one friend, Reuters reported.

The news came as Japan, which has confirmed two cases of the variant, asked airlines to stop taking new reservations for international flights into the country through the end of the month, the AP reported. Japan also began barring entry of foreign visitors Tuesday, two days after Morocco’s foreign ministry tweeted that it would temporarily suspend incoming international flights.

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On Friday, the United States also said it would restrict travel from South Africa, where the variant was first detected, as well as Botswana, Zimbabwe, Eswatini, Mozambique, Malawi, Namibia and Lesotho, The New York Times previously reported.

Although the new variant also has been detected in Nigeria, the United Kingdom, several European Union countries, Canada, Australia, Israel and Hong Kong, no cases have been reported in the U.S., according to the AP. Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, however, told “Weekend Today” on Saturday that he “would not be surprised” if omicron was already circulating here.

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On Tuesday, Oxford University’s Our World in Data project reported that so far, 54.5% of people worldwide have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. Nearly 83% of South Korea’s residents have received at least one vaccine dose, compared with about 70% of Americans, according to the data.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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