Live updates: Spain confirms its 1st case of omicron variant

MADRID — One of Madrid’s major public hospitals says it has detected the first confirmed case of the omicron variant in Spain in a traveler who arrived from South Africa.

In a tweet on Monday, the microbiology and infectious disease service of the Gregorio Marañón hospital said that the sequencing of samples from the patient earlier in the day showed that the infection corresponded with omicron.

The hospital said that the patient is in good condition.

In a statement, health authorities in the Madrid region identified the patient as a 51-year-old man who had returned from South Africa on Nov. 28 after having made a stopover in Amsterdam.

He had first tested positive for coronavirus in a screening with antigen tests at the Madrid airport, the statement said, adding that authorities are watching other passengers who came in close contact with him on the plane from the Netherlands.



— Nations around the world seek to keep new omicron variant at bay even as it remains unclear what it means for the pandemic

— AP explains what is known and not known about the new COVID-19 variant

Merriam-Webster chooses vaccine as the 2021 word of the year

Why WHO skipped ‘nu,’ ‘xi’ for new COVID variant

— See all of AP’s pandemic coverage at


Britain is extending its COVID-19 booster vaccine program to millions more people as part of efforts to tackle the spread of the new omicron variant, which is feared to be more contagious and vaccine-resistant.

The British government said Monday that it would accept in full the revised recommendations from the independent body of scientists that has been advising it, chief of which is that everyone aged between 18 and 39 should be offered a booster shot. Up until now, only people aged over 40 as well as those deemed particularly vulnerable to the virus were eligible.

The change in advice means around 13 million more people will be eligible for the vaccine. So far, the U.K. has given around 17.5 million booster shots.


WARSAW, Poland — Poland is suspending flights to seven southern African countries where the new coronavirus variant omicron has been detected.

Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said that travelers from those countries will have to go through a 14-day quarantine.

The new rules are to begin Wednesday and last until Dec. 17.

The government, which has been resisting new restrictions as infections surge, is lowering its current limit of 75% capacity in restaurants and cultural events to 50%.

Poland is among a growing list of countries moving to restrict travel following the discovery of omicron, even though it still isn’t clear how it will affect the pandemic.


JOHANNESBURG — South African doctors say that the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases attributed to the new omicron variant cases is resulting in mostly mild symptoms.

Dr. Unben Pillay, a general practitioner in Gauteng province where 81% of the new cases have been reported, says he has seen a sharp increase in new COVID-19 cases in the past 10 days.

He said that so far the cases have been very mild cases, with patients having flu-like symptoms, dry coughs, fever, night sweats, a lot of body pains. He said most have been treated at home.

He also said that the vaccinated are faring much better than the unvaccinated.

The recent surge in South Africa has been among people in their 20s and 30s and doctors emphasize that COVID-19 symptoms are often mild in that age group.


WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will urge Americans to get vaccinated and to receive a booster shot as he seeks to quell concerns over the new COVID-19 variant omicron. But he won’t immediately push for more restrictions to stop its spread, his chief medical adviser said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and Biden’s leading COVID-19 adviser, said there were still no cases of the variant identified in the U.S. but that it was “inevitable” that it would make its way into the country eventually.

Speaking on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Fauci said scientists hope to know in the next week or two how well the existing COVID-19 vaccines protect against the variant, and how dangerous it is compared to earlier strains.


MADRID — Spain has imposed a 10-day mandatory quarantine for visitors coming from seven southern African countries, where omicron, a new coronavirus variant, was first been identified.

Spain’s move comes as more and more countries are imposing travel restrictions, even though much remains unknown about omicron.

The mandatory isolation affects travelers from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe who arrive in Spain directly or with stopovers in other countries.

Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said that more than 200 nationals who were in the region and whose flights have been cancelled will be brought back to Spain on flights that are still operating to parts of Europe.


TOKYO — Japan announced Monday it will suspend entry of all foreign visitors from around the world as a new coronavirus variant spreads.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the measure will take effect Tuesday.

The decision means Japan will restore border controls that it eased earlier this month for short-term business visitors, foreign students and workers.

Over the weekend, Japan tightened entry restrictions for people arriving from South Africa and eight other countries, requiring them to undergo a 10-day quarantine period at government-designated facilities.

Many countries have moved to tighten their borders after the new omicron variant of the coronavirus was found in a number of nations.


LONDON — Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said there is evidence of local transmission of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus after the country reported its first six cases.

She told a news conference that not all the cases in Scotland had links to recent travel, adding that this suggests “there might already be some community transmission of this variant in Scotland.”

The new cases takes the U.K.’s total to nine after three cases were identified in England over the weekend.

The arrival of the variant on British shores prompted Prime Minister Boris Johnson to tighten restrictions on mask-wearing and testing of international arrivals to England.


ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s planning minister said a big vaccination campaign against coronavirus will be expedited this week to minimize the threat of the new variant.

Asad Umar warned that the new coronavirus variant known as omicron will inevitably come to the Islamic nation in the next few weeks, and he urged unvaccinated citizens to get their shots as soon as possible.

Umar said since the world is interconnected, it is impossible to stop the new variant from entering Pakistan.


LISBON, Portugal — Portuguese health authorities said they have identified 13 cases of omicron, the new coronavirus variant believed to be more contagious, among team members of a professional soccer club.

The Ricardo Jorge National Health Institute said Monday that one of those who tested positive at the Lisbon-based Belenenses soccer club had recently traveled to South Africa, where the omicron variant was first identified.

The others, however, hadn’t traveled to South Africa, indicating that this may be one of the first cases of local transmission of the virus outside of southern Africa.