‘I caught Omicron Covid in London at mass medical gathering’, says Israeli doctor

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Cardiologist Elad Maor says he believes he caught the new variant of coronavirus while attending a major medical conference at ExCeL London

Elad Maor, a cardiologist at Sheba Medical Centre near Tel Aviv, was one of the first people in the world to become infected with the Omicron Covid-19 variant
Elad Maor, a cardiologist at Sheba Medical Centre near Tel Aviv, was one of the first people in the world to become infected with the Omicron Covid-19 variant

An Israeli doctor who was one of the first people in the world to become infected with the Omicron Covid-19 variant has claimed he may have caught the virus when he was in London.

Elad Maor, a cardiologist at Sheba Medical Centre near Tel Aviv, believes he may have become infected with the new variant while attending a major medical conference at the convention centre ExCeL London.

The PCR London Valves 2021 conference, which took place between 21 and 23 November, was attended by 1,250 people – some of whom were not wearing face masks.

The allegations made by Mr Maor, a dad of three and an associate professor of cardiology at Tel Aviv University, raise questions about how early the B.1.1.529 variant was present in the UK and Europe.

It comes after Dutch officials said on Tuesday that the Omicron variant was already in the Netherlands a week before South Africa reported the variant to the World Health Organisation.


Elad Maor is a cardiologist at Sheba Medical Centre and an associate professor of cardiology at Tel Aviv University
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Image:

@eladmaor / Linkedin)

The recent revelations about the variant’s existence in Europe challenge previous ideas about where and how the variant originated, and whether travel bans on southern African countries are an appropriate response to the variant.

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In an interview with the Guardian, Mr Maor, who is currently self-isolating in his home in Israel, said he was convinced he had become infected in the UK,

“I got the Omicron in London, for sure,” he said. “That is interesting because that was 10 days ago in London – really, really early.”

Mr Maor, who had received three doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, described arriving in London on 19 November and staying four nights at a hotel in Islington, north London.

After a three-day meeting at ExCeL London in Newham, east London, he returned to Israel on 23 November.

The shocking allegations made by Mr Maor raise questions about how early the B.1.1.529 variant was present in the UK and Europe
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Image:

AFP via Getty Images)

He began to experience Covid-19 symptoms within days and tested positive on 27 November. He has so far shown mild symptoms including a fever, muscle ache and a sore throat.

Pictures of the medical conference taken by Mr Maor reportedly show not all attendees were wearing masks, although people were asked to show proof of vaccination before being allowed entry.

The Europa Group, which organised the PCR London Valves 2021, has confirmed it had learned on 30 November that a delegate had tested positive for Covid after returning to their home country.

A spokesperson for the Europa Group told the Guardian: “As you may imagine, the health, safety and wellbeing of everyone who visited PCR London Valves was our number one priority.

“All protocols mandated by the UK government were put in place. Anyone entering the congress centre had to present a valid health pass and were requested to wear a mask. Hydro-alcoholic gel and masks were made readily available for all participants and disposal bins for used protective equipment were provided.”

Mr Maor who travelled to the conference using the London Underground and Docklands Light Railway each day, said he was “surprised” when he saw not everyone was wearing a face covering on public transport – a common sight on the London transport network.

Israel shut its borders to foreigners from all countries for 14 days on Saturday to try to contain the spread of Omicron
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Image:

AFP via Getty Images)

He undertook a PCT test on 20 November – his second day in the UK – and again on 21 November – the first day of the conference – as per UK and Israeli travel rules.

He flew from London via Heathrow airport at 9pm on 23 November – the final day of the conference. Upon arrival at Tel Aviv, he had a third PCR test – which also came back negative.

Mr Maor said he may have also infected a 69-year-old colleague after flying back from London. The colleague has since tested positive for the Omicron variant.

He returned to work at the Sheba Medical Centre after testing negative when returning to Israel, before developing symptoms and testing positive from a fourth PCR test.

Mr Maor believes he may have become infected with the new variant while attending a major medical conference at the convention centre ExCeL London.
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Image:

PA)

Mr Maor was the third confirmed Omicron case in Israel, and the first in the country with no travel links to southern Africa.

Neither his wife – who travelled with him to London – nor their children have experienced symptoms of tested positive for Covid-19.

The cardiologist urged people to get vaccinated and take up the booster jab if eligible.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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