U.S., EU, others restrict travel from Southern Africa over new Covid-19 variant

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The United States has issued a travel restriction on eight Southern African countries following the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant in the region.

This comes shortly after WHO’s designation and naming of the new variant as Omicron.

Acting on advice from Anthony Fauci and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Biden administration will restrict travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.

Officials, who are still learning more about the variant, said the policy was implemented out of an abundance of caution given by the World Health Organisation.

Over a dozen countries have taken a position on the emergence of the new variant, Omicron.

The emergence of the variant, first detected in South Africa, prompted some countries to impose travel restrictions on at least six Southern African nations.

Some of the countries that have imposed restrictions are the UK, Israel, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and the EU.

Starting Monday, Dubai will restrict travellers from seven African countries— including South Africa — according to Emirates, citing the country’s Covid-19 Command and Control Centre.

The Philippines has suspended inbound flights effective immediately from South Africa and six other countries due to concerns over the new variant, according to the presidential office. Travellers, including Filipino nationals, coming from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Mozambique have been banned until December 15.

Guatemala announced it would be implementing restrictions on travellers coming from Southern Africa. During a media briefing Friday, President Alejandro Giammattei said that, although not many travellers came from those countries, they still had to be careful.

According to the Switzerland government statement published Friday, all flights from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa are forbidden from 8 p.m. local time for an indefinite period.

Special government permits will be issued to repatriate Swiss citizens and residents. All people entering Switzerland from this region — as well as Hong Kong, Israel and Belgium — must present a negative Covid-19 test and quarantine for 10 days.


ALSO READ: WHO designates new Covid-19 variant, B.1.1.529, Variant of Concern

Greece will allow only essential travel from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique, Eswatini, Zambia and Malawi, the country’s health ministry said Friday in a statement.

Travellers will have to obtain a special permit from the local Greek embassies and diplomatic missions to travel, the ministry said, adding that on arrival they will be tested and put in quarantine hotels for 10 days, after which they will be tested again.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how the Africa CDC discouraged the imposition of a travel ban on people originating from countries that have reported the new variant of Covid-19.

Omicron has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other Variants of Concern.

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WHO advised people to continue to adhere to proven public health and social measures such as wearing well-fitting masks, hand hygiene, physical distancing, improving the ventilation of indoor spaces, avoiding crowded spaces, and getting vaccinated.

It also advised countries to enhance surveillance and sequencing efforts to better understand circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants as well as submit complete genome sequences and associated metadata to a publicly available database, such as GISAID.

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