RIO — The idea of spending his honeymoon in Cape Town, South Africa, was part of the musician Victor Rodrigues Dias’ plans for over a year, when he began planning a wedding with his wife. A year later, the couple from Minas Gerais, residents of Belo Horizonte, managed to fulfill their dream of discovering the South African destination, but the recent discovery of the new variant of the coronavirus, Ômicron, turned the last days of the trip into an exhausting and exhausting experience. with an air of uncertainty.
Ômicron: Africa begins to receive more anti-Covid vaccines, but has problems distributing them
The flight back to Brazil was scheduled for December 1st, by Qatar Airways, through a travel agency, says Victor. However, with the news of the variant, since Monday all flights departing the country to Brazil were cancelled. Because of this, the couple has no prospect of returning home. Victor says that he came in contact with the companies involved and official authorities numerous times, but nothing has been resolved so far.
— We are very adrift waiting for an answer from the consulate, not knowing what to do — the musician vents. — So far, that’s the situation, a question mark on all aspects: stay, how much are we going to spend, when are we going to get back. Nothing is known.
Questions and answers: What is already known about the Ômicron variant
The federal government’s decision to close the air border is based on the opinion of Anvisa and extends, in principle, to Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Namibia, published last Saturday. In addition to Brazil, at least 19 countries and/or territories have already announced restrictions on flights from African nations due to the variant.
Also called B.1.1529, Ômicron was identified for the first time in South Africa. It was exactly one day after the couple’s arrival in the country that the new strain was reported to the World Health Organization (WHO), last Wednesday . It was also last week that the WHO classified it as a variant of concern, due to the high concentration of mutations — a total of 50, with 30 being only in the protein S (spike), “key” that the virus uses to infect cells and target of most Covid-19 vaccines.
The discovery of the variant sparked a worldwide alert for being potentially more contagious than previous strains, although experts still cannot say with certainty what real damage it can cause to the body and how it responds to vaccines.
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Despite the lack of data on Ômicron’s transmissibility and lethality, the couple says they felt scared when the first news about the variant came out. However, the biggest concern of the newlyweds is the financial one.
The uncertainty of the return caused panic in the couple, who do not know how to pay for the unplanned expenses of the trip. The 34-year-old musician and teacher says that he has even considered the possibility of buying equipment to try to teach online while he needs to stay in the country, as a way to earn money to stay there until a solution is found. Furthermore, the language barrier has also become an impediment for the couple.
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— It’s a feeling of abandonment, fear and insecurity. There are several things that go through our minds and that turn into a whirlwind – added his wife, who preferred not to have the name disclosed by the report.
The African continent only vaccinated 6.6% of the entire population of 1.2 billion people, according to the head of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC Africa), John Nkengasong. In South Africa, Ômicron’s zero mark, the vaccination rate is also low: only 23.5% of the population has completed the vaccination cycle, according to data from Our World in Data, a project linked to the University of Oxford.
new strain: ‘micron has only caused ‘mild symptoms’ so far, says a South African doctor who has treated dozens with the variant
Across Africa, authorities successfully conduct routine mass vaccination campaigns against diseases such as measles. However, many countries struggled earlier this year when doses of Covid-19 arrived, citing a lack of funding, training and cold storage.
*Intern under the supervision of Leda Balbino