More countries restricted travel from South Africa and some neighboring countries on Friday, citing the threat of the new variant B.1.1.529.
THIS COMES WITHIN HOURS OF THE DETECTION OF NEW VARIANT
Since the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) confirmed on Thursday afternoon that the new variant has been detected in South Africa, with 22 cases found so far, countries have been closing their borders one after the other.
The United Kingdom was the first to react, announcing that South African travellers would be denied entry from midday Friday.
Here is the list of countries that have restricted travel from South Africa:
UK – South Africa has been placed back on the UK’s restrictive red list, which enforces strict quarantine requirements for returning residents.
Israel adds South Africa to its red list – only returning Israeli residents and nationals will be allowed to return home from South Africa. They will need to quarantine for a week and take two post-arrival PCR tests.
Seychelles – Travellers from South Africa, as well as Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, will not be permitted into Seychelles from Saturday
Singapore announced that it too would restrict visitors with a travel history to Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, or Zimbabwe within the last 14 days. This ban, which comes into effect at midnight on Saturday, includes transiting through Singapore.
Italy and Austria are examples of countries to which travel for South African passport holders was already prohibited. Residents and nationals returning from South Africa will be allowed to renter Italy and Austria but will be forced to quarantine for ten days, even if they are considered fully vaccinated.
Germany has moved to declare South Africa a virus variant area on Friday- means that travellers from South Africa will be prohibited from entering Germany.
Japan announced on Friday that it would move to tighten its borders. The exact details of this ban and when it will come into effect are, at this stage, still unknown.
France – French Health Minister Olivier Véran announced that flights from South Africa and neighbouring countries would be suspended for 48 hours.
Guatemala – Guatemala will impose restrictions by limiting entry to travellers from Lesotho, Mozambique, and South Africa.
Cyprus – It said it was banning arrivals from a number of African states, including South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe.
Saudi Arabia has suspended flights to and from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, and Eswatini.
Canada is closing borders to passengers from seven countries, including South Africa.
The United States announced Friday it is restricting travel starting Monday from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi.
LATEST INFORMATION AVAILABLE ON THE VARIANT
The new variant, first dubbed B.1.1.529 and now named Omicron, has spread across the country.
The WHO on Friday assigned the Greek letter Omicron to the variant.
The reason this particular variant is causing so much panic comes down to its genetic make-up.
Researchers say it comes with 32 different mutations and carries several spike proteins, making previous strains so problematic.
Minister of Health Joe Phaala said preliminary studies suggest the variant may be more transmissible due to its genetic composition but noted that vaccines are still effective in preventing severe Covid from the variant.
He also said the travel bans imposed on the country, particularly by countries in the European Union, following the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant in the country are “unjustified.”