Belenenses player had returned to Portugal after international duty in South Africa
A little more detail here on those Omicron variant cases detected in the Portuguese football team Belenenses. Defender Cafu Phete tested positive for Covid-19 after returning to Portugal last week from international duty in South Africa.
Reuters report that the new variant was found after Belenenses played a Primeira Liga match against Benfica on Saturday.
The game started with only nine Belenenses players on the pitch because the rest of their squad were isolating and only seven returned to the field after halftime. The match was abandoned two minutes into the second half with Benfica leading 7-0.
“We’re all in isolation except for the youth team that didn’t play on Saturday, 44 people are in isolation at home,” a club spokesman said on Monday.
“Two or three players and two or three staff have symptoms, but nothing too serious, the rest are asymptomatic. Everyone is waiting to repeat the tests, as soon as the health authority authorises it,” he added.
Prof Sir Mark Walport, who is a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) advising the UK government, told Sky News there was “good cause to be concerned” about Omicron.
He said it “makes sense to try and hold it back” though it will be “impossible to stop it spreading around the world if it is much more infectious than the Delta variant”.
PA Media quotes him saying the most important thing people in the UK could do was to have vaccines and take measures such as wearing masks.
Asked if people should be told to wear masks in pubs and restaurants, he said: “If you are in a small, poorly ventilated enclosed space, it makes sense to wear a mask. Clearly when you are drinking and eating it’s not possible to do that but if you’re moving around, then absolutely.
“We know that infection happens in closed spaces indoors and of course, as it gets colder, people are more likely to be indoors and they’re less likely to have the windows open. So if you’re going to wear masks in shops, it makes sense to wear them in other places as well.”
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of council at the British Medical Association, called for hospitality staff to be required to wear masks when servicing customers.
He told Good Morning Britain: “What we believe is that there should be mask-wearing in all settings which are enclosed and indoors.
“Now clearly, that doesn’t apply to people who are eating out, but it should apply to staff, for example, in restaurants and bars so that when you are close to a customer, when you’re in direct line of a customer, maybe a few feet away, and you’re speaking perhaps loudly, you reduce the chance of infecting others.
PA Media quotes him saying: “This isn’t just about the public, it’s also about staff and employers as well, because if they have staff who become infected, staff who are ill and self-isolating, that will also affect the economy. So there is a reason for doing this for both customers and employers.”
On the Omicron cases in Scotland, Dr Nagpaul added: “The difficulty here is we’re not sure at the moment exactly how infectious, transmissible and how much the new variant is going to be resistant to the vaccine, if at all. So as this work is being done, the right thing to do is to be cautious, which is what the government is doing.”
Labour: people should wear masks in hospitality settings in England
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said there was “no distinction” between people sitting in pubs, trains or hospitals when it came to wearing masks indoors.
She has called for face coverings to be worn in hospitality venues in England, as well as on public transport and in shops.
PA Media quote Rayner telling Sky News: “We think that in hospitality settings that people should be wearing a mask. I got the train here yesterday evening and it was absolutely rammed, you couldn’t even stand up, it was so full, and nobody, very few people, were wearing a mask on that train.
“It’s so important that people wear masks when they’re indoors, in arenas where they’re meeting people and... mixing in large numbers. People should be wearing their masks.”
On wearing masks in pubs, she said: “I think people should... especially if you’re moving around the pub, people should be wearing their masks in hospitality settings. If you’re (in) an indoor setting, there’s no distinction between a pub, sitting in a pub, or sitting on a train, or sitting in a hospital. It’s still a venue that’s indoors and we should be taking the necessary measures to protect people around us.”
Swinney: 'degree of community transmission' suggested in Scotland cases
Scotland’s deputy first minister John Swinney said that some of the Omicron variant cases identified in Scotland have no travel history, which suggests there is a degree of community transmission.
PA Media quotes him telling BBC Good Morning Scotland: “We obviously have some travel history on some of the cases, I don’t have all of that detail available to me at this stage, but on some of the cases we are aware that there is no travel history involved on some of the cases.
“So what that tells us is that there must be a degree of community transmission of this particular strain of the virus in the absence of direct travel connection for some of the cases in the southern African area.
“So that obviously opens up further challenges for us in terms of interrupting the spread of this particular strain of the virus and that will be the focus of the contact tracing operation that is under way already.”
Prof Greg Towers, from the Division of Infection and Immunity at University College London, said people in the UK needed to adhere to “easier” measures to avoid potential future lockdowns.
PA Media quotes him telling Times Radio this morning: “If we don’t wear masks, and if we ignore social distancing rules, and if we just pretend it’s all over, then what’s going to happen is we’ll get another big wave of infection, and we’ll get put into lockdown again, so if we don’t want lockdown we’ve got to try and stop the spread by easier means like mask-wearing and social distancing.
“Unfortunately, this isn’t a situation of saying when is this going to be over? When are we going to get back to normal? I think we’re going to have to learn to live with this virus and that might mean taking action like having lockdowns if we get surges of infection.
“So basically, we’re looking at behaving in such a way that we suppress waves of infection when they’re on their way – and that I hope will be through vaccination.
“Even if this virus is good at escaping the first vaccine, the vaccine can be modified to make one that is more specific to these new variants.
“And so there are answers to all this, but we just have to keep managing it. We have to not say: ‘When is this going to be over?’ We just have to learn to say: ‘I’m going to wear a mask today on the tube, because that will protect my fellow passengers and reduce the chance of us going into lockdown again’.”