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1st Omicron case detected in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia confirmed its first case of the Omicron COVID-19 variant coming from a north African country, state news agency SPA reported on Wednesday.

SPA, quoting a statement from the kingdom's health ministry, said authorities had isolated the person and people who were in contact with them.

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It is the first Omicron variant case reported in the Middle East and North Africa. The ministry said the person was a Saudi national who had travelled from a North African country, without giving further details.

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Monday that the heavily mutated Omicron coronavirus variant was likely to spread internationally and poses a very high risk of infection surges that could have "severe consequences" in some places.

The Saudi ministry urged people to complete their vaccination and ordered travellers to respect self-isolation and testing rules.

Omicron was first reported on Nov. 24 in southern Africa, where infections have risen steeply. It has since spread to more than a dozen countries, many of which have imposed travel restrictions to try to seal themselves off.

Japan on Monday joined Israel and Morocco in saying it would completely close its borders.