Portugal detects 13 Omicron cases linked to Belenenses football team

Portugal said on Monday it had identified 13 cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, all linked to Belenenses, a football club which was forced to participate in a high-profile game over the weekend which was abandoned in progress.

The country’s National Health Institute said the 13 people were in isolation and were all players or staff at Belenenses, which fielded an exhausted squad of just nine players against Benfica on Saturday after reporting a coronavirus epidemic.

The institute also confirmed that one of the 13 was a player who recently returned from South Africa to Portugal, whose scientists helped identify Omicron. Benfica players will be tested for the virus, the country’s chief health officer Graça Freitas told local TSF radio.

Ahead of Saturday’s game, up to 17 players and staff at Belenenses club tested positive for the virus, although it was not clear at the time whether those cases involved the new variant. Belenenses players have sought to have the game canceled, but officials have reportedly told them he must continue.

Separately, Portuguese health authorities said they were looking for more than 200 passengers who arrived in Portugal on Saturday from Maputo, Mozambique. At least two people on the flight had tested positive for the virus, but authorities said it was too early to confirm whether these were Omicron cases.

Portugal began on Monday to suspend all flights to and from Mozambique, which is a former Portuguese colony and shares a border with South Africa, over concerns over the new variant.

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