Cannot stop Omicron from reaching Maldives, can only delay it: HEOC

The Health Emergency Operation Centre (HEOC) spokesperson, Dr. Fathmath Nazla Rafeeq, has said it is impossible to stop the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, from reaching the Maldives. She made the statement at a press conference held by HEOC on Sunday.

Speaking at the press conference, Dr. Nazla said following the discovery of a new, more powerful variant of the COVID-19 virus in South Africa last week, the Maldives took the step to ban travelers from the Southern African countries from entering the country. However, the doctor said this step would not stop the virus from reaching the Maldives but would help delay its reach and eventual spread in the Maldives. Over the past 24 hours, Omicron has been detected in several countries, she added.

'In one country, two people with no travel history [to South Africa] are suspected of being infected with the [Omicron] variant and are being tested. Even with Delta [variant], it quickly spread to several countries after it was identified. So even if we take measures at the border, we can only delay its reach; we cannot stop it,' said Nazla.

To minimize the spread of the new variant, tourists arriving in the Maldives will be required to undergo PCR tests, and steps will be taken to improve assessing the completion of vaccines. Furthermore, those in the Maldives who traveled to Southern African countries in the last 14 days will also be tested.

As per Nazla, the new variant has an unusually high number of mutations and is therefore likely to be more transmissible than the destructive Delta variant. She said that those who were previously infected with the virus are also more likely to get infected with the Omicron variant. It is still unknown whether the current COVID-19 vaccines will be effective against the new variant, and tests are ongoing to determine it.