OREANDA-NEWS. A new strain of the coronavirus COVID-19 "omicron" has been identified in almost 20 countries and regions, the number of new cases continues to rise, the American television channel CNN and other Western media reported on Tuesday.

In the past 24 hours, the first cases of omicron infection have been reported in Spain, Austria, Japan and on Reunion Island, an overseas region of France. Previously, cases of the new strain have already been identified in Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, China (in Hong Kong), Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa, Sweden and Great Britain (in England and Scotland).

Three new cases were identified in Scotland on Tuesday, The Guardian reported. Thus, so far only nine omicron infections have been identified in Scotland. Scotland's Cabinet Secretary for Health Hamza Yusuf said there is no evidence that the virus entered the country during the COP26 climate summit or the rugby match between Scotland and South Africa, but the investigation is ongoing.

Meanwhile, Australia has identified the sixth case of the new strain in a tourist who arrived in the country from Qatar on 25 November. It is reported that the sick person was vaccinated. Two more people on the same flight were diagnosed with coronavirus, but at the moment it is not known what strain they were infected with.

The omicron infection on Réunion Island was the first in French territory. According to CNN, the virus was found in a 53-year-old man who visited Mozambique.

Earlier, the WHO released a report that said that due to mutations that can make omicron a more infectious strain, the likelihood that it will quickly spread around the world is extremely high. The global risk associated with the new strain was also assessed by the WHO as extremely high.

Omicron was identified in November in southern Africa. Experts believe that it can pose a threat, as it spreads much faster than other strains that scientists have identified during the pandemic, and contains a large number of mutations.