Zambia reports 1st cases of omicron variant

Zambia reports first case of the Omicron coronavirus strain [File: Emmanuel Mwiche/AP]

Zambia reports first case of the Omicron coronavirus strain [File: Emmanuel Mwiche/AP]
Zambia has detected its first cases of the omicron coronavirus variant, the country’s health minister said on Saturday.

The strain was found in three people who tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week – two fully vaccinated people who traveled abroad recently and a third unvaccinated person with no history of foreign travel, Sylvia Masebo told reporters in the capital Lusaka.

“The patients are two men and a woman. One of the men is asymptomatic, while the other two patients have mild flu-like symptoms,” she said, adding that authorities have started tracing all their contacts.

Masebo said the government was ramping up surveillance and urged people to exercise precaution.

“The severity of COVID-19 caused by the omicron variant is yet to be understood … however, it is clear that vaccines continue to play a critical role in controlling the pandemic,” she said.

The omicron strain has been detected in more than 40 countries, sparking global alarm and pushing states rushing to close down borders and tighten curbs.

Zambia is among several African nations that are facing travel bans by countries around the world.

The COVID-19 case count in the country currently stands at 210,265, including 3,667 related deaths.

It has fully vaccinated just over 1.1 million of its population of some 18 million.

The government aims to cover at least 2 million of the target group of 3.6 million by Christmas.