The 13 cases of Covid-19 identified in the footballers of the Portuguese club Belenenses, which for this reason could not get enough players onto the field on Saturday against Benfica, are probably associated with the new Omicron variant of the coronavirusannounced on Monday the National Institute of Health (INSA).
“Preliminary tests carried out by INSA strongly suggest that the 13 cases associated with Belenenses SAD players are related to the worrying variant omicron,” reported this public agency. If confirmed, these are the first cases of this variant detected in Portugal. According to the agency, one of the footballers recently traveled to South Africa.
The game caused a great controversy, since it was only interrupted at the beginning of the second half when the Belenenses team had six players and the Benfica won 7-0.
“The party of shame”
Saturday’s high-profile match between Belenenses SAD and Benfica was described as a “farce” and a “shame”. The modest team from the Belem neighborhood in Lisbon found themselves immersed in a cartoonish situation: Deprived of 13 players by an outbreak of Covid-19, as well as his coach and various components of the four coach, Belenenses had to take out an initial team made up of several players from his subsidiary team, a goalkeeper as a forward … and even so it only gave them to add nine players, no spare parts in the bank.
At half-time, the unusual gave way to the absurd: with 7-0 on the scoreboard and only seven players available – two declared injured – Belenenses returned to the field to play the second half, which never started because earlier, one of the local footballers threw himself on the ground, supposedly injured and unable to continue, forcing the referee to call the match over, since the regulation establishes that a match cannot continue if one of the teams remains with less than seven footballers.
State of affairs
Several countries have imposed travel restrictions on southern Africa, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Netherlands, since scientists revealed the existence of this new variant detected in South Africa.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warned this Monday that the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus presents “a very high risk” for the world and stressed that there are still many unknowns, especially about the real danger it represents.
In a technical document in which it also gives advice to the authorities to try to stop its progress, the agency indicated that “So far no death associated with the Omicron variant has been recorded.”
“Given the mutations that could give it the ability to escape an immune response, and give it an advantage in terms of transmissibility, the probability that Ómicron will spread globally is high,” the organization said, while expanding the list of countries where the variant has been detected after the first cases in southern Africa this November.
The WHO added that “depending on these characteristics there could be future spikes of Covid-19, which could have severe consequences.”
The unknowns about the Omicron variant, discovered in South Africa, remain numerous, however the organization warns: its contagiousness, and whether it is inherent to the mutations found or to the fact that the variant eludes the immune response; the level of protection of existing anticovid vaccines; and the severity of the disease, ie whether the variant causes more severe symptoms.