Argentina detects first Omicron case, health ministry says

A woman walks past a graffitti depicting a healthcare worker embracing a man, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Cordoba, Argentina, July 10, 2021. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian/Files

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina has detected its first case of the Omicron coronavirus variant in a person who had travelled from South Africa, the South American country's Health Ministry said late on Sunday.

The passenger is a 38-year-old resident of the western Argentine province of San Luis, who arrived on Nov. 30 from South Africa on a flight via the United States and has been in isolation since.

The Omicron variant has spooked global markets and led to renewed border restrictions.

Argentina joined Brazil, Mexico and Chile on the list of Latin American countries where cases of the new variant have been detected.

The patient involved, who was fully vaccinated, had given a negative PCR test prior to travelling and another negative antigen test upon arrival in Buenos Aires, the ministry said. The person tested again after finding out colleagues at a work event in South Africa had tested positive for COVID-19.

"The epidemiological objective currently is to contain and delay the possible community transmission of new variants of concern," the ministry said, adding it would keep increasing vaccine coverage and strengthen other prevention measures.

The patient was in close contact with four people, who are also in isolation but have no symptoms and their PCR tests have been negative, the ministry said. All will be subjected to another PCR test at the end of their isolation.

(Reporting by Eliana Raszewski; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Ed Osmond)

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