March 2, 2024

New Covid-19 variant prompts these countries to impose travel restrictions

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26 November 2021, Hessen, Frankfurt/Main: Passengers walk with their luggage at Frankfurt airport. After the discovery of a new virus variant, the German government wants to restrict air travel with South Africa. Photo: Boris Roessler/dpa (Photo by Boris Roessler/picture alliance via Getty Images)

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26 November 2021, Hessen, Frankfurt/Main: Passengers walk with their luggage at Frankfurt airport. After the discovery of a new virus variant, the German government wants to restrict air travel with South Africa. Photo: Boris Roessler/dpa (Photo by Boris Roessler/picture alliance via Getty Images)

The discovery of a new Covid-19 variant first detected in South Africa prompted multiple countries to impose travel restrictions on at least six African nations.

Currently known as B.1.1.529, the newly identified variant appears to be spreading rapidly in parts of South Africa, and scientists are concerned that its unusually high number of mutations could make it more transmissible and result in immune evasion. The World Health Organization classified it as a “variant of concern” on Friday.

These are the countries that have announced restrictions so far:

  • United States
  • Italy
  • Austria
  • France
  • Japan
  • The United Kingdom
  • Singapore
  • The Netherlands
  • Malta
  • Malaysia
  • Morocco
  • Philippines
  • Dubai
  • Jordan
  • Guatemala
  • Switzerland

While only dozens ofcases of the new strain have been identified so far, they have been detected in South Africa, Botswana, Hong Kong, Israel and Belgium.

The cascade of closures began late Thursday as the UK 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.

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.

Singapore has opted to ban all non-residents from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe from entering, while nationals and permanent residents returning from any of these countries will be required to serve a 10-day stay home notice (SHN). Malaysia has also taken similar steps.

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.

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. Travelers, including Filipino nationals, coming from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Mozambique have been banned until Dec. 15.

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

Jordanhas announced any Jordanians arriving from several countries — including South Africa — will have to quarantine for 14 days, according to a report from Jordanian public broadcaster Al-Mamlaka on Friday. Non-Jordanians traveling from South Africa, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini and Botswana will only be allowed entry if they spend 14 days outside those countries in a third country, according to Al-Mamlaka, citing the country’s Interior Ministry. The new measure will go into effect November 28.

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

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 given the WHO has now identified this as a “variant of concern.” 

Switzerland has banned all direct flights from the region of southern Africa as well. According to a 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. 

https://edition.cnn.com/world/live-news/new-covid-variant-south-africa-11-26-21/index.html

David McKenzie reports:

#CNN

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