BERLIN. Two cases of the new variant of the Omicron coronavirus have been detected in the southern German state of Bavaria and a suspected case has been found in the west of the country, health officials said on Saturday.
Two people with the option entered Germany at Munich airport on November 24, before South Africa was designated a virus-infected area and is now being quarantined, Bavaria’s health ministry said, without explicitly saying they came from South Africa.
The two stepped forward to investigate further after learning of a new variant that caused global concern and triggered a wave of travel restrictions.
The Bavarian ministry said anyone who has been in South Africa in the past 14 days should immediately cut contacts, take a PCR test, and contact local health authorities.
“Bavaria reacted quickly and quickly to a completely new option,” said a ministry spokesman. “Everything must be done to stop its spread.”
Of the passengers arriving from Cape Town on Friday, 50 are under quarantine in Bavaria. The Bavarian ministry said two foreign passengers have tested positive for the coronavirus and are being investigated for the Omicron variant.
Officials in the western state of Hesse, home to Frankfurt Airport, one of Europe’s busiest airports, said earlier that a suspected case of the Omicron variant was found on a passenger arriving from South Africa.
The man arrived in Germany on Sunday and was fully vaccinated, Der Spiegel reports, citing the Ministry of Social Affairs in Hesse. There was no one in the ministry right away who could comment on the situation.
The Frankfurt Health Authority said it expects full sequencing results on Monday. It said a routine check last week following a positive coronavirus test identified a case that showed signs of a new variant.
Since then, authorities have implemented coronavirus tests for all travelers from South Africa and Namibia upon arrival at Frankfurt Airport. So far, none of them have been positive.
Germany has classified South Africa as a virus-prone area as of Sunday. This does not apply to the flight ban, but means that airlines can only fly from Germany to Germany from South Africa, and even those who have been vaccinated must spend 14 days in quarantine.
Growing coronavirus in Germany
The new variant emerged as Germany, like many other European countries, is grappling with a spike in coronavirus cases.
Health Minister Jens Spahn warned that the situation is worse than ever. “We have to cut all contacts, we are in a more serious situation than before,” he said in a meeting with a group of experts on Saturday.
Many Germans anticipate tougher restrictions as intensive care units, especially in eastern and southern Germany, reach their limits.
Immunologist Leif Erik Sander of the Charite Hospital in Berlin said current vaccines are likely to provide at least some protection against the Omicron variant.
“I am optimistic that we will not have to start from scratch,” he said at the town hall, adding that more research is needed.
However, only 68.3 percent of the population of about 83 million is fully vaccinated, far below rates in southern European countries such as Portugal and Spain. About 10% of the population received the vaccine, Spahn said.
Germany reported 67,125 new cases of coronavirus on Saturday, according to the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases. More than 100,000 people have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.