Portuguese health authorities say they have identified 13 cases of Omicron, the new coronavirus variant believed to be more contagious, among team members of a professional soccer club.
The Ricardo Jorge National Health Institute said Monday that one of those who tested positive is a player from the Lisbon-based Belenenses soccer club who had recently travelled to South Africa, where the Omicron variant was first identified.
The others, however, had not travelled to South Africa, indicating that this may be one of the very first cases of local transmission of the virus outside of southern Africa.
Those who have been in contact with the positive cases have been ordered to isolate, regardless of their vaccination status or their exposure to possible contagion, and will be regularly tested for Covid-19, the institute said.
Portugal also found two positive coronavirus cases when it screened 218 passengers who arrived in a flight from the capital of Mozambique to Lisbon on Saturday. One of the cases was the delta variant and the other one couldn't be established, authorities said.
The World Health Organization, noting that the variant has already been detected in many countries and that closing borders often have a limited effect, called for frontiers to remain open.
The variant was identified days ago by researchers in South Africa, and much about it is still unclear, including whether it is more contagious, more likely to cause serious illness or more able to evade the protection of vaccines.