The Belenenses Soccer Club halted a game over the weekend against Benfica when a Covid-19 outbreak reduced the team down to just nine eligible players. Portugal, the team’s host country, revealed on Monday that 13 people tested positive for the South Africa Omicron variant.

Inconclusive studies have shown varying degrees of worry regarding the new Omicron variant of Coronavirus, but the concerning mutation has spread rapidly since its discovery in South Africa.

The Pro Soccer team has been isolating ever since testing positive, according to Graca Freitas, Portugal’s general health director, with members of Benfica prepping to be tested as well.

“Since this is a new variant, we have to tighten the controls,” Freitas told local reporters at TSF radio. “Despite being vaccinated, we know that the vaccine is not 100% effective.”

Luckily, all 13 cases in the soccer team are improving according to Freitas, with the infected yet to display any sign of symptoms.

Belenenses seemed to be more concerned with the result of their 7-0 defeat to Benfica due to the loss of eligible players. ABC News reported that the soccer club asked the league to “ratify the result of the game” and schedule a do-over match.

According to the Ricardo Jorge National Health Institute, the Omicron variant was first reported among the soccer club after discovering that one of the team’s members recently traveled from Mozambique, a former colony. Portugal has since suspended all flights from South Africa.

Portugal health authorities also revealed that they were actively tracing over 200 potential cases of the Omicron variant through travelers arriving from Maputo, Mozambique. According to The New York Times, two passengers on the flight that arrived on Saturday contained traces of Covid-19, but it was too early to confirm if it was the new variant at the time.

It’s a good sign that the vaccine has been able to fight off the breakthrough case of the Omicron variant among the team, especially as fears grow concerning the quick spread of Omicron globally. Nearby Spain reported its first case on Monday, and Canada reported the first two cases in North America.

Mask mandates and travel bans have gone back into effect in many countries to hold back the spread of the new variant, with Portugal declaring face masks mandatory to enter enclosed spaces and buildings once more. Israel, Japan, and Morocco restricted foreign travel, while Australia delayed their reopening.

In New York City, Health Commissioner Dr. David Chokshi advised a return to indoor mask mandates, stressing citizens to wear a face mask “at all times, when indoors and in a public setting, like at the grocery, in building lobbies, offices and retail stores.”

“This includes those who are vaccinated and those who have had Covid-19,” he continued. “We do anticipate detecting omicron in New York City in the coming days based on what we know about its global spread.”

Omicron Covid-19 variant spreads globally, including 13 cases of the Belenenses soccer club in Portugal
Omicron Covid-19 variant spreads globally, including 13 cases of the Belenenses soccer club in Portugal. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Speaking to the country on Monday, President Joe Biden said that the variant was “a cause for concern, not a cause for panic.”

“We’re throwing everything we have at this virus, tracking it from every angle,” he stated. “I’m sparing no effort, removing all roadblocks to keep the American people safe.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Omicron variant a “very high” global risk Monday morning, but noted that “there are still considerable uncertainties.”

So far, the new variant has yet to enter the United States, but health officials advise that getting vaccinated is still the strongest defense in fighting Covid-19 and its variants.

Though breakthrough cases of the Delta and Omicron variants may show minor signs of symptoms, fatal cases for those who have received even just their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine have been proven to be significantly decreased.