Updated Dec 1, 2021 - Health

Omicron variant detected in more countries

People walk at the boarding area at the Galeao International airport in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on April 13

The Galeao International airport in Rio de Janeiro, Brazi. Photo: Mauro Pimentel/AFP via Getty Images

Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and South Korea on Wednesday became the latest countries to report cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. They followed similar announcements made in Brazil and Japan on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The arrival of the "variant of concern" in more countries underscores the difficulties governments are facing as they seek to reopen economies stalled by nearly two years of pandemic restrictions in the era of global air travel.

The big picture: Since the variant was identified by scientists in South Africa last month, Omicron cases have been confirmed across Europe, Canada, Israel, Hong Kong and Australia. The U.S. was among several countries to impose travel restrictions on southern African nations in response.

What's happening: Saudi Arabia's Health Ministry on Wednesday reported its first Omicron case, according to the kingdom's state-run Saudi Press Agency. The case involved a "citizen arriving back from a North African country," SPA reported.

  • South Korean officials reported the country's first five known cases of the Omicron variant, per Reuters.
  • Health officials in Brazil on Tuesday reported two positive test results for Omicron, confirming the first cases of the variant in Latin America, per Reuters.
  • Japanese officials reported the country's first Omicron case earlier Tuesday, the Japan Times reported. It reported a second case on Wednesday, per AP.

Nigeria's health institute said on Wednesday it has identified the country's first three Omicron cases. Those cases involved individuals who arrived in Nigeria from South Africa in the past week, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

  • Earlier Wednesday, the NCDC reported that it also detected the Omicron variant in a sample collected in October, but it later retracted that statement, per the New York Times. An NCDC spokesperson told the Times that the October sample was the Delta variant.
  • The NCDC did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Go deeper: Omicron dashboard

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details throughout.

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