A doctor who was one of the first people in the world to contract the Omicron variant says he believes he contracted the virus when he was in London For a major medical conference attended by more than 1,200 health professionals.
The disclosure from Elad Maor will raise concerns that the surrogate may have been in the UK much earlier than previously realized – and that other doctors may have been exposed as well.
In an exclusive interview with The Guardian, Maor, a cardiologist at Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv, described how he returned to Israel On November 23 after the three-day meeting at ExCeL London, a large conference center in Newham, east London. He began experiencing symptoms within days, and tested positive for the virus on November 27.
The time from exposure to symptom onset (known as the incubation period) is thought to be 14 days, although symptoms usually appear within five days of exposure.
The 45-year-old, a father of three and associate professor of cardiology at Tel Aviv University, arrived in London on November 19 and stayed four nights in a hotel in Islington, north London. Mauer has so far shown mild symptoms of Covid-19, including fever, muscle aches and sore throat.
Speaking to the Guardian from his home in Israel, where he is self-isolating, Mauer also said he may have infected a 69-year-old colleague after returning from London. The colleague has since tested positive for the Omicron variant.
While he cannot be sure how or when he contracted the infection, Mauer, who has received three doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, is convinced this is happening in the UK. “I got Omicron in London, for sure,” he said. “That’s interesting because that was 10 days ago in London – really, really early.”
The revelation will raise new questions about How early did the new format exist in the UK and Europe. Governments around the world are urgently scanning databases for recent cases of Covid, screening travelers and decoding the viral genomes of the new variant as they try to gauge its spread and where it originated.
The data indicates that it was in circulation before it was officially identified in South Africa last week and has since been detected in more than a dozen countries. It will take weeks to work out whether they are more contagious, deadly, or can evade vaccines.
Mauer said he had nothing but praise for the organizers of the PCR London Valves 2021 conference, who had requested proof of vaccination before being allowed into ExCeL London. However, photos of the meeting taken by Mauer and reviewed by the Guardian show that not everyone was wearing masks. 1,250 people attended the conference and 2,400 others watched online.
The doctor, who traveled to attend the conference in East London using the Tube and Docklands Light Rail every day, observed similar behavior on public transport. “Not many of the people on the tube were masked,” he said. “I was really surprised by that.”
He did the PCR test on November 20 – his second day in the UK – and again on November 21 – the first day of the medical conference – in accordance with UK and Israel travel rules. After attending the last day on November 23, fly from London via Heathrow at 9pm. Arriving in Tel Aviv in the early hours of November 24, he took a third PCR test – which also came back negative.
“The only reasonable explanation is that I contracted the infection on the last day of the meeting – maybe at the airport, maybe at the meeting,” he said. “for this reason [third] PCR was early to detect infection. So it’s either the second day of the meeting or the last day of the meeting because there’s a gap between when you get infected, and when the PCR becomes positive.”
After initially testing negative for Covid-19 upon his return to Israel, he returned to work at Sheba Medical Center before showing symptoms, and a fourth PCR test said he tested positive. Maor has since been told it is the third confirmed case of Omicron in Israel, and the first in a country that has no travel links to South Africa.
Mauer said he “feels strange” to be one of the first people in the world to be infected with the Omicron variant. “As a doctor I’m not used to being in the spotlight.”
Although his wife accompanied him to London, neither she nor any of his children showed symptoms or tested positive for Covid-19. “That’s reassuring, I think,” he said. “I think the transmissibility of this [variant] Not very different or very different from what I know of Delta.”
Maur urged people to get vaccinated and get a booster shot if they qualify. “I can’t stress the importance of that enough,” he said. “Things could have ended much worse for my family and friends – I’m sure my illness would have been worse had it not been for the vaccine.”
The Europa Group, which is based in Toulouse and organized the PCR London Valves 2021 conference at ExCeL London, posted a message on the official conference website confirming that it had learned on November 30 that one of the delegates had tested positive for Covid after returning to their home country. .
Speaking from France, a spokesperson for the Europe Group said: “As you might imagine, the health, safety and well-being of everyone who visited PCR London Valves was our top priority.
“All protocols approved by the UK Government have been in place. Anyone entering the conference center must show a valid health permit and have been asked to wear a mask. Hydro-alcoholic gel and masks were readily available to all participants and disposal boxes were provided for used protective equipment.”
Israel Close its borders to foreigners from all countries For 14 days on Saturday in an effort to contain the spread of Omicron, it reused anti-terror phone tracking technology to trace the contacts of a handful of potentially infected people. The United Kingdom has added 10 countries to its “red list” for travel.