Several cases of the new Omicron strain have been detected in Germany, as well as in the Czech Republic. The UK and Italy are among other European nations that have also registered instances of the suspected Covid mutation.
Bavaria's health ministry announced late on Saturday that the new strain had been detected in Germany. Two travelers who arrived at Munich airport on Wednesday tested positive for Omicron and are now self-isolating. The ministry did not specify the country from which their flight had originated.
Later on Saturday night, a hospital in the northern Czech Republic city of Liberec confirmed a case in a female patient.
Italy said on Saturday it had registered its first case of the new strain. Earlier, other European nations, including the Netherlands, reported suspected cases of Omicron, but these have not been confirmed yet. The UK reported discovering two cases of the new strain, also on Saturday, with the health authorities saying they were linked to travel from South Africa.
The first-ever cases of the strain were registered earlier this month in Botswana, with the variant becoming dominant in southern Africa soon thereafter. The first case on European soil was detected in Belgium on Friday, when the World Health Organization (WHO) officially named the new strain, identified as B.1.1.529, Omicron.
While little is known about it thus far, experts worldwide have already raised the alarm over its multiple mutations and potential for infection. On Friday, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control designated the strain as presenting a "high to very high" risk, adding that there was "considerable uncertainty related to the transmissibility, vaccine effectiveness, risk for reinfections and other properties of the Omicron variant."
All 27 EU member states suspended air travel from seven southern African nations the same day. Similar moves have been taken by the UK, the US and other nations.