Omicron: At least 25 countries already have new coronavirus variant

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  • Covid-19
    Covid-19
People stand in front of an arrivals board at Tokyo's Haneda international airport on December 1, 2021, as Japan suspended all new flight bookings into the country in response to the Omicron Covid variant. (Photo by Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP) (Photo by KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty Images)
The variant has been detected in countries around the world. (Getty Images)

The new Omicron COVID variant is spreading across the globe, with at least 25 countries already identifying the strain in their population.

India said it had detected two Omicron cases on Thursday, and the first US infection was found in California.

The UK has confirmed 32 cases of the Omicron variant so far.

The following countries have confirmed at least one case of Omicron:

AFRICA

Botswana 

Ghana 

Mozambique 

Nigeria 

South Africa

AMERICAS

United States

Canada

Brazil 

ASIA

India

Japan 

South Korea 

EUROPE

Austria 

Denmark 

France

Germany 

Greece

Ireland 

Italy 

Netherlands 

Norway 

Portugal 

Spain 

Sweden 

UK

MIDDLE EAST

Saudi Arabia 

Watch: WHO expects more Omicron data 'within days'

The WHO said it expects to have more information on the transmissibility of the Omicron variant within days.

Maria van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead on COVID-19, said the schedule was faster than the "weeks" they had predicted it would take to assess data after designating it a "variant of concern", its highest rating.

She said one possible scenario was the new variant, which was first reported in southern Africa, could be more transmissible than the dominant Delta variant. 

Van Kerkhove said it was not yet known if Omicron makes people more ill.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L), wearing a face covering to combat the spread of the coronavirus, greets a member of the public waiting to receive the vaccine, during his visit to Lordship Lane Primary Care centre in north London on November 30, 2021, to promote the NHS vaccine booster campaign. - Existing Covid-19 inoculations will struggle against the fast-spreading Omicron variant, the head of vaccine manufacturer Moderna warned Tuesday, as countries ramp up vaccination programmes and impose further restrictions in an effort to curb growing concern. (Photo by PAUL GROVER / POOL / AFP) (Photo by PAUL GROVER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson has issued a 'call to get jabs in arms'. (Getty)

On Thursday, a government minister suggested larger businesses may consider cancelling their staff Christmas parties amid fears over the dangers posed by Omicron.

Business minister George Freeman told the BBC: “It slightly depends on the nature of the business. For many small businesses, four or five staff, who are working together every day anyway, gathering to have a drink isn’t a big step up in risk.

“But some companies might normally bring hundreds of people in from around the world to a big party, and they may decide, this year, is that sensible given the pandemic and given where we are?

“In the end, I think business people know how to make those decisions. The Government has set out clear guidance.”

Freeman said he has cancelled his in-person Christmas party with staff this year and is instead planning a proper gathering in the spring.

His comments came the day after the prime minister urged people to carry on as normal with their Christmas plans.

Read more:

WHO - Some Omicron cases have 'mild' symptoms

Omicron: Surge in COVID cases 'will send us back into lockdown' - expert

Omicron: Urgent hunt for COVID cases linked to KFC restaurant and school in Essex

Nations have continued to tighten restrictions to as more countries confirmed cases of Omicron.

The government said on Wednesday it had agreed deals to buy 114 million more Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, saying it had sped up signing the new contracts in light of the emergence of the variant.

France is stepping up its COVID-19 booster vaccination campaign and tightening entry rules for arrivals from outside the European Union in response to the spread of the Omicron variant, a government spokesman said.

Watch: Border and travel restrictions tighten due to Omicron variant

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