Britain and Denmark each reported a rise in confirmed coronavirus cases of the new omicron variant Sunday as countries with robust testing uncover more known instances of the variant in their backyards.
There were 86 new cases of the omicron variant, Britain’s health security agency said Sunday, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 246 — nearly double the total number of cases reported Friday. In Denmark, local health authorities confirmed there were 183 known cases of the variant, more than triple the total number of suspected cases reported Friday, and called them “worrying.”
Both Britain and Denmark are widely perceived as leaders in genomic sequencing and testing, giving them an edge over tracking the spread of the virus and its mutations. Still, much remains unknown about the omicron variant.
The detection of more omicron cases adds to a growing anxiety as overall coronavirus infections continue to increase in Europe, which the World Health Organization called “the epicenter” of the pandemic earlier this month.
Since then, countries in the region have reimposed restrictions to clamp down on the resurgence of cases, with some tightening rules specifically for the unvaccinated.
On Sunday, officials in Britain said they were still gauging the potential effect of the new variant. But increasing the uptake of vaccines and boosters would be the “surest defense,” Dominic Raab, Britain’s deputy prime minister, said to the BBC.
Britain reported an average of 44,385 daily cases last week, an 11% increase compared with two weeks ago. Deaths, in contrast, have decreased by 20% in that time frame.
Britain levied new restrictions last week to combat omicron, including a requirement that all international travelers take a coronavirus test within 48 hours of departure and an additional test within two days after arrival. The government also mandated the wearing of masks in indoor spaces like public transport and shopping centers.
In Denmark, where vaccination rates are high, the mandatory use of COVID passports and face masks in some public spaces was reintroduced last week. The country’s health authority said Sunday that it was ramping up its laboratories to be able to detect omicron faster, as well as intensively testing and restricting travel to try delay the spread of the virus.