LOS ANGELES — California is reporting its second confirmed case of the omicron COVID variant in as many days.

The Los Angeles County public health department says a county resident is self-isolating after apparently contracting the infection during a trip to South Africa last month. The person’s symptoms are improving without medical care and some people who were in close contact with the traveler have tested negative for the virus and don’t have any symptoms, the department said.

The U.S. recorded its first confirmed omicron infection on Wednesday in a San Francisco resident who had recently traveled to South Africa and developed mild symptoms after returning Nov. 22.

The little-understood variant was first identified a week ago in South Africa and it’s been spreading. Additional cases were reported Thursday in the New York City area, Minnesota, Hawaii and Colorado.



— The vaccination gap between rich and poor countries is expected to widen

Omicron and delta spell return of unpopular restrictions

— What’s the status of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate in the US?

— Japan retracts new flight bookings ban after criticisms

— Biden launching new winter COVID-19 booster, testing campaign

Go to https://APNews.com/coronavirus-pandemic for updates throughout the day.



HONOLULU — The omicron coronavirus variant has been confirmed in an unvaccinated Hawaii resident with no recent travel history.

Hawaii Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble said Thursday that the adult had been infected with COVID-19 a year ago, isn’t currently hospitalized and had “mild-to-moderate” symptoms including headache, body aches and cough.

She wouldn’t identify the patient other to say the person lives on the island of Oahu.

The news came as multiple cases of the omicron variant have been detected in other states including Minnesota and California.

Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it can thwart the vaccine.

Scientists in South Africa first reported it, but the samples came from several countries in southern Africa. And health officials in the Netherlands now say it was found there prior to the South Africa detection.

Kemble said it was only a matter of time before the variant was detected in Hawaii and that there are likely more cases in the state.


NEW YORK — Health officials have confirmed at least five cases of the omicron coronavirus variant in New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Thursday evening.

A 67-year-old woman from Suffolk County, two Queens residents, a Brooklyn resident and a fifth person believed to be a visitor to the state tested positive. Their vaccination statuses weren’t immediately clear, but the woman from Suffolk County had received at least one dose, Hochul said.

The cases come after a Minnesota resident tested positive for the variant following attendance at an anime convention in New York City.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the geographic spread of the positive tests suggested the variant was undergoing “community spread” in the city, and wasn’t linked to any one event.


DENVER — Colorado became the third U.S. state to detect a case of the omicron variant in a woman who had recently traveled to Africa, state health officials announced Thursday.

The Colorado case comes after two other confirmed omicron variant cases were found in California and Minnesota.

Officials in Colorado detected the new case in a woman who is a resident of Arapahoe County, an area just east of Denver. She recently traveled to Africa as a tourist, the state health department said in a statement.

The woman is fully vaccinated, but had not received her booster shot yet, they said.

She is experiencing mild symptoms, health officials said. The woman’s close contacts in Colorado have tested negative, they said.


TORONTO — Those who are 50 years of age or older will be eligible for a booster COVID-19 shot as of Monday in Canada’s largest province of Ontario.

Ontario Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kieran Moore says thus far five Omicron variant cases have bee identified in Ontario and additional cases are expected soon.

Moore says over 20{362bf5cdc35eddfb2532d3c23e83b41deb229c4410d15cb1127c60150cbd4488} of those over 70 have received a booster shot. He says if the capacity is not being used they will open up eligibility sooner to other age groups. He says they have enough supply but don’t want to overwhelm the system.

Ontario is offering a booster shot six months after the second shot.


Brazil’s Ministry of Health on Thursday confirmed two more cases of the new variant of the coronavirus omicron in the country.

They are two people who boarded in South Africa, passed through Ethiopia, landed in Guarulhos, and finally arrived in Brasilia. One of them has mild symptoms of the disease and the other is asymptomatic.

With the three cases confirmed Wednesday in Sao Paulo, the number of confirmed cases of the omicron in Brazil rises to five. There are still eight investigations in progress.


HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe’s Vice President, Constantino Chiwenga, who is also the health minister, says the southern African country has recorded the omicron variant, making it the fifth African country to report its presence after Botswana, South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria.

“We are doing the genomic sequencing, we have already now identified that we have it in this country and therefore we must remain vigilant,” Chiwenga said according to Zimbabwe’s state broadcaster on Thursday. Chiwenga was speaking to a meeting for farmers. He didn’t provide details on the number of cases of omicron or the origin of the cases.


GENEVA — Swiss health authorities have ordered the entire student body and staff of a branch of a renowned international school – some 2,000 people — to go into quarantine for 10 days after two confirmed cases of the omicron variant turned up on campus.

The Ecole Internationale campus known as La Chataigneraie, in suburban Geneva, was ordered shut by regional health authorities in the Vaud region starting Thursday evening, according to a notice sent to parents obtained by The Associated Press.

The quarantine order applies to all people, including those who have been vaccinated, and all students and staff are to take a PCR test in about five to seven days, according to the notice. It says family members will be required to take a PCR test.


MADRID — Spanish health authorities have confirmed the first case of the omicron coronavirus strain without any established link to southern Africa.

Secretary of State for Health Silvia Calzón said that of the five confirmed cases of the omicron variant in Spain there was one case identified on Thursday in a person who had not travelled to South Africa nor had any links to people who had made such a trip.

Spain’s ban on flights connecting air routes from South Africa and six neighboring countries started on Thursday for fears of the new strain identified by South African authorities.

Much remains unknown about the new variant, though the World Health Organization warned that the global risk from the variant is “very high” and early evidence suggests it could be more contagious.


Argentina said Thursday that a quarantine imposed on a cruise ship coming from Africa had been lifted after a crewmember tested negative for the virus that causes COVID-19.

The crewmember on the Hamburg cruise vessel tested negative in a PCR test, indicating that a previous positive result from an antigen test was false, Argentina’s Ministry of Health said. There were no other suspected virus cases among the crew and passengers, it said.

The Argentine government on Tuesday had ordered the quarantine of the vessel off the country’s coastline due to “the risk generated by the new omicron variant and as a precautionary measure.”

The Hamburg was carrying 300 passengers and more than 150 crewmembers and was coming from Cape Verde. It had planned to dock in Buenos Aires. It is currently off Samborombón Bay, south of the capital.


HARARE, Zimbabwe — The World Health Organization’s Africa director says quick detection and reporting of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus by Botswana and South Africa have “bought the world time” as nations scramble to stop it spreading.

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said Thursday that “we have a window of opportunity but must act quickly and ramp up detection and prevention measures.”

Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it can thwart vaccines.

Moeti says countries “must adjust their COVID-19 response and stop a surge in cases from sweeping across Africa and possibly overwhelming already-stretched health facilities.”

Africa Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention Director John Nkengasong told reporters at a separate briefing that the continent recorded 52,300 new COVID-19 cases compared to the previous week – a 105{362bf5cdc35eddfb2532d3c23e83b41deb229c4410d15cb1127c60150cbd4488} increase.

He says about 31, 000 of the cases were reported in South Africa while the southern Africa region as a whole recorded a 153{362bf5cdc35eddfb2532d3c23e83b41deb229c4410d15cb1127c60150cbd4488} increase in November.

The WHO says South Africa has confirmed 172 cases of omicron and Botswana 19. Ghana and Nigeria in West Africa are the other African countries that have recorded cases of the new variant.

Nkengasong says that while authorities are “deeply concerned” by the rising numbers “we are not worried that the situation cannot be managed.”

He says vaccines are beginning to flow into the continent “in a very predictable and steady manner” although there is concern that “countries are not picking up these vaccines.”

He says that while little is yet known about how effective current vaccines are against omicron, “anything in your body is better than nothing. We totally don’t have a choice – we have to use vaccines.”


ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota state health officials say l ab testing has confirmed a COVID-19 case involving the omicron variant there.

The Minnesota Department of Health said Thursday the variant was found during its surveillance program in a specimen from a Minnesota resident who had recently traveled to New York City.

The department says the man, from Hennepin County, had been vaccinated. He developed mild symptoms on Nov. 22 and sought COVID-19 testing on Nov. 24. His symptoms have subsided.

The person attended the Anime NYC 2021 convention at the Javits Center from Nov. 19-21, the health department said.

Omicron is classified by the World Health Organization as a “variant of concern” as scientists work to determine how it may compare with the predominant delta variant in terms of transmissibility and severity. Scientists also are studying the degree to which existing vaccines and therapies protect against omicron.


KYIV, Ukraine – Ukraine has announced an entry ban for foreign nationals traveling from eight African countries in an effort to prevent the new coronavirus variant omicron entering the country.

Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it can thwart vaccines.

Ukraine’s ban will take effect on Friday and affect foreigners traveling from countries where the spread of the new variant has been recorded, such as South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique and several others.

Ukrainians and foreign nationals with permanent residency in Ukraine arriving from those countries will be required to quarantine for 14 days.

The ex-Soviet nation of 44 million people has reported a total of over 3.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 87,057 deaths in the pandemic.


BERLIN – Germans who aren’t vaccinated are to be excluded from nonessential stores, cultural and recreational venues.

Also, Germany’s parliament is to consider a general vaccine mandate.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday the measures were necessary in light of concerns that hospitals in Germany could become overloaded with COVID-19 patients. Infections are more likely to be serious in those who haven’t been vaccinated.

Merkel said, “The situation in our country is serious.”

Infections have again topped 70,000 in a 24-hour period.

Officials have also agreed to require masks in German schools, impose new limits on private meetings and aim for 30 million vaccinations by the end of the year.

German lawmakers will debate the possibility of a vaccine mandate. If approved, it could take effect as early as February.


SINGAPORE — Singapore’s Health Ministry says preliminary tests detected the new omicron variant of the coronavirus in two passengers who arrived on a plane from Johannesburg, the country’s first suspected cases.

The ministry said the two Singaporeans were isolated upon arrival on Wednesday and had not interacted in the community.

The results of their polymerase chain reaction test on arrival “revealed the presence of S-gene target failure which may be associated with the omicron variant,” the ministry said. It said it is conducting further tests to confirm the results.

The health ministry says the two passengers were both fully vaccinated and have mild symptoms of a cough and scratchy throat.

The ministry said 19 other passengers on the same flight tested negative for COVID-19 and have been placed under quarantine.


COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Officials in Norway say at least 50 people in Oslo have been infected with the omicron variant.

The cases are connected to a company’s recent Christmas party in a restaurant in the capital, officials said Thursday.

The Oslo Municipality said in a statement that more cases are expected. Officials are trying to trace transmission routes from the party.

Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it can thwart vaccines.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health said that those affected live in Oslo and surrounding municipalities.


NEW DELHI — India has confirmed its first cases of the omicron variant, in two people who traveled abroad.

India’s Health Ministry said Thursday the confirmed cases are two men in southern Karnataka state. It did not say which country they had come from.

Balram Bhargava, the head of the Indian Council of Medical Research, India’s top medical research body, urged people not to panic and to get vaccinated.

Some Indian states have issued strict restriction guidelines for international arrivals as precautionary measures, including mandatory COVID-19 tests for those originating from South Africa, Botswana, and Hong Kong.


WASHINGTON— GlaxoSmithKline says its COVID-19 antibody drug appears to be effective against the omicron variant, based on initial laboratory testing.

The British drugmaker said Thursday it hopes to complete testing by year’s end to confirm whether the drug is effective against all the various mutations seen with the variant.

Earlier this week, rival drugmaker Regeneron cautioned that its antibody cocktail appeared to lose effectiveness against omicron.

Antibody treatments remain one of a handful of therapies that can blunt the worst effects of COVID-19, and they are the only option available to people with mild-to-moderate cases who aren’t yet in the hospital.

The U.S. government has purchased millions of doses of three antibody therapies from Regeneron, Eli Lilly and Glaxo.


ATHENS – Public health authorities in Greece have confirmed the country’s first case of the new COVID-19 omicron variant.

Health Minister Thanos Plevris said Thursday the infection was detected on the Greek island of Crete and identified the patient only as a Greek man who had traveled from South Africa.

Greece is facing its highest daily number of confirmed coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic. Parliament approved and late Wednesday mandatory vaccinations for residents over 60 years of age.

The penalty for non-compliance is a 100 euro ($110) monthly fine. The measure will take effect on Jan. 16.


PARIS – French health authorities say they have detected the first confirmed case of the new COVID-19 variant on the country’s mainland.

The Ile-de-France Regional Health Agency said Thursday a man in his 50s who lives in the Paris city area tested positive for the omicron variant after returning from a trip to Nigeria.

He showed no symptoms when he and his wife tested positive Nov. 25 on their return to France. The wife’s test is being screened for omicron. They have been quarantined at their home since the positive test.

A third person living in the same home with the couple was tested on Thursday to determine if they were infected and, if so, if they are carrying the new variant.

None of the three people are vaccinated, the statement said.

France reported its first omicron case on Tuesday in the island territory of Reunion in the Indian Ocean. The patient was identified as a man who had returned to Reunion from South Africa and Mozambique on Nov. 20.