An Israeli cardiologist says he is still willing to attend face-to-face medical conferences despite returning from PCR London Valves 2021 with the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
The hybrid meeting saw over 1,250 cardiology health professionals attend the ExCeL London convention centre between 21 and 23 November to hear and discuss the latest updates in interventional cardiology, surgery and imaging.
But after attending the meeting in person, Tel Aviv cardiologist Associate Professor Elad Maor has tested positive for Omicron, experiencing mild symptoms such as fever, muscle ache and a sore throat, according to The Guardian.
After three negative tests while in the UK and a positive one four days later in Israel, the triple-Pfizer/BioNTech-vaccinated, mask-wearing clinician told The Guardian he believed he had contracted the virus in London “for sure”.
Now self-isolating, Associate Professor Maor is believed to have shared his unwelcome souvenir with a 69-year-old colleague at the Olga and Lev Leviev Heart Center, who also tested positive for Omicron, though his wife and children appeared to be fine.
The case, along with other data, suggests Omicron was circulating before it was officially identified in southern Africa on 24 November. So far the World Health Organization-declared ‘variant of concern’ has been detected in 45 countries, with Australia reporting at least 28 cases.
Its transmissibility and severity, and the efficacy of existing COVID-19 vaccines and medications against it are currently unknown, however, Associate Professor Maor said his family’s lack of COVID was “reassuring” and that its spreadability may not be “completely different or extremely different to what I know about Delta”.
Despite COVID-19’s continued circulation — Omicron or no — Associate Professor Maor said he was “surprised” to see many people in London on public transport not wearing masks. Similarly, conference photos on PCR London Valves’ website show several attendees without masks, contrary to the meeting organiser’s requests.
A Europa Group spokesperson told The Guardian that “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,” the outlet reported.
Europa Group has also posted a note on PCR London Valves’ website confirming an attendee had tested positive for COVID-19 so that others “may decide the best course of action for [themselves], if any”.
Despite contracting a stowaway variant, Associate Professor Maor tweeted that he “still prefer[s] in-person over the online format”.
What a mess! Came back from a conference in London. With a mask and 3 #Pfizer vaccines I managed to get #Omicron (case #3 in Israel). I guess that’s one way to get into @CNN and @guardian. Still prefer in-person over the online format🤷♂️@EricTopol @Hragy #CardioTwitter #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/bgMgUOAi1D
— Elad Maor (@maor_elad) November 30, 2021
PCR London Valves 2022 is pencilled in for 27–29 November next year. If and how COVID-19 will affect delivery remains to be seen.