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New COVID variant means new travel restrictions in western nations

COVID-19
Posted at 1:17 PM, Nov 27, 2021

US President Joe Biden will be restricting travel from six African nations starting Monday as concerns grow from the newly discovered COVID-19 variant, Omicron.

Those nations are:

  • South Africa
  • Botswana
  • Zimbabwe
  • Namibia
  • Lesotho
  • Eswatini
  • Mozambique
  • Malawi

The U.S. and eight other countries have put new restrictions in place just hours after the South African health officials announced the discovery of the fast traveling new variant Friday.

This left travelers stranded without warning in a South African airport, Schiphol Airport.

No signs of Omicron appears to be in the U.S., but Dr. Anthony Fauci said, "You would predict by the mutations have been identified that it would likely be more transmissible... I would not be surprised if it is. We have not detected that yet. When you have a virus that shows this degree of transmissibility, and you already having traveling related cases..when you have a virus like this it will essentially go all over."

Biden told the press he had "decided we're going to be cautious" about the variant. "We don't know a lot about the variant except that it is a big concern and seems to spread rapidly," he said.

The World Health Organizations announced Friday it has designated the newly identified corona-virus variant as B.1.1.529.

Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister, said on Saturday that the UK must take "targeted and proportionate measures now" amid concerns of the new variant that scientist says that can be spread very rapidly and between people who are double vaccinated.

Several cases have now been identified in Europe - two in the UK, two in Germany, one in Belgium and another one in Italy, while a suspected case was found in the Czech Republic.

Johnson further emphasis on the mutation that might reduce the protection of vaccines overtime.

He furthered that they will not stop travel in the UK, but will require PCR test by the end of the second say after their arrival and to self-isolate until they have a negative result.

UK is taking measures to locate those who have been in "countries of concern" over the last 10 days and will require all contact of those who test positive with a suspected case of Omicron to self-isolate for 10 days regardless of their vaccination status.

These are the countries that have announced restrictions so far, according to CNN:

  • The cascade of closures began late Thursday as the United Kingdom announced it would be temporarily suspending flights from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini.
  • Japan has tightened border controls for travelers from the same six countries, bringing in a 10-day quarantine beginning 12 a.m. on Nov. 27. Bahrain and Sri Lanka said it would suspend entry from those countries as well. Brazil said it will close its air borders with the six c
  • Pakistan announced on Saturday that it would be closing its borders to South Africa, Hong Kong, Mozambique, Namibia, Lesotho and Botswana.ountries too.
  • Fellow EU nations Austria, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Malta have all announced imminent entry bans to all travelers who've entered South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini in the past two weeks. Switzerland has banned all direct flights from the same seven countries as well. Oman will suspend incoming flights from the seven countries beginning Sunday morning.
  • Egypt, Singapore, Malaysia, Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have also announced restrictions on the seven countries.
  • Meanwhile, Germany plans to declare South Africa a "virus variant area" from Friday night, which will mean that airlines may only enter from the country to repatriate German citizens.
  • President Biden announced that the United States will restrict travel from South Africa and seven other countries starting Monday as a new coronavirus variant has emerged, administration officials tell CNN. Acting on advice from Dr. Anthony Fauci and the US 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.
  • Canada is taking similar steps as the US, according to its health minister.
  • 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. Travelers 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'll be tested again. The new measures take effect Saturday at 6 a.m. local time. Australia is also banning the entry of foreign citizens who have traveled to the nine southern African countries in the previous 14 days.
  • Starting December 1, travelers from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe “will not be allowed to enter Thailand” and will not be permitted to apply for entry.
  • Russia said on Friday it will restrict entry into its country for citizens from nine countries — South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Madagascar, Eswatini, Tanzania — as well as Hong Kong.
  • Turkey issued a travel ban from five African countries — Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe — through land, air, sea and rail border crossings starting Friday night, according to a tweet from Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca.
  • Colombia's President Iván Duque Márquez announced Saturday that all passengers arriving from South Africa will have to go into mandatory quarantine for 15 days.

Canada will be "banning the entry of foreign nationals... that have traveled through southern Africa in the last 14 days," due to the Omicron variant, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos told a press conference on Friday.

To read more about Omicron and travel, click here.

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