Russia has confirmed the first two cases of the omicron coronavirus variant in the country in travelers who returned from South Africa, health authorities said Monday.
The Russian public health watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor, said a total of 10 people who returned from South Africa recently tested positive for COVID-19, but the new variant has only been confirmed in two cases so far, with other samples still being studied for omicron.
All those returning from South Africa in recent days have been quarantined in observation facilities, according to media reports. All travelers who tested positive for the virus have been hospitalized, Rospotrebnadzor said. It wasn’t immediately clear if they were hospitalized as a precaution or because they were seriously ill.
Russia restricted entry for all foreigners traveling from countries in southern Africa and required all Russian nationals returning from South Africa or neighboring countries as of Thursday to quarantine for 14 days because of the the omicron variant, which was first reported by scientists in South Africa.
Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it can thwart coronavirus vaccines.
Russia on Friday reported 32,136 new cases and 1,184 deaths. The state coronavirus task force has reported a total of more than 9.8 million confirmed infections and 282,462 deaths in the pandemic. But a report released Friday by the state statistics agency Rosstat, which uses broader criteria, put the the overall number of virus-linked deaths between April 2020 and October 2021 to over 537,000 almost twice the official toll.