Portugal probes local transmission of omicron at soccer team


LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Portuguese health authorities on Monday identified 13 cases of omicron, the new coronavirus variant spreading fast globally, among members of a top soccer club and were investigating whether it was one of the first reported cases of local transmission of the virus outside of southern Africa.

The Ricardo Jorge National Health Institute said that one of those who tested positive was a player from the Lisbon-based Belenenses SAD soccer club who had recently traveled to South Africa, where the omicron variant was first identified. The others, however, had not traveled to South 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’s health general director, Graça Freitas, told the local TSF radio that the players of Lisbon’s biggest team, Benfica, which played Belenenses SAD on Saturday, will also be tested for the virus.

The Primeira Liga match started with just nine Belenenses SAD players on the pitch — two less than the game calls for — due to the coronavirus outbreak. But the referee suspended the game just after half-time, with Benfica leading 7-0, when only seven Belenenses SAD players took the field and the squad then lost another player.

Club president Rui Pedro Soares said that despite having a decimated squad, his club had not asked for the game to be postponed.

Portugal also found two positive coronavirus cases when it screened 218 passengers who arrived in Lisbon on a flight from the capital of Mozambique on Saturday. One of the cases was the delta variant and the other one couldn’t be established, authorities said.

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