Omnicron variant triggers scramble to impose travel restrictions

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The New Omicron version of COVID-19 has prompted countries to ban travelers from at least eight southern African countries.

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A new version of the coronavirus has prompted many countries to impose restrictions such as travel restrictions, while others have renewed lockdowns over the Omicron strain.

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The new restrictions come after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the new COVID-19 variant as “a matter of concern”.

The Omicron variant, which scientists say has a higher number of mutations, was first detected last week in South Africa and has spread rapidly through Gauteng province, home to economic hub Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria, scientists say. .

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It has so far been found in at least four other countries.

Also known as B.1.1.1.529, the mutations may help the virus evade the body’s immune response and make it more contagious, according to scientists.

It may take weeks to know if existing vaccines are less effective against it.

In response to the discovery of the variant, the United States, Canada, Russia and several other countries joined the European Union in restricting travel to visitors from several southern African countries.

Here are the latest updates:


UK Labor Party calls for faster COVID booster jobs

Britain’s main opposition Labor Party said Britain should reduce the gap between a second dose of COVID-19 vaccination and a booster jab to six to five months.

“This new version is a wake-up call,” said Alex Norris, Labor’s junior health spokesman. “The pandemic is not over. We urgently need to strengthen our defenses to keep the virus away. ,


Japan tightens border controls on three more African countries

Japan will tighten border controls for the southern African countries of Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia, requiring a 10-day quarantine for any entrants, the foreign ministry said.

The new rules will take effect from midnight (15:00 GMT on Saturday) and come a day after Japan tightened border controls for those arriving from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Lesotho.


South African travelers in Netherlands test positive for COVID-19

Dutch health officials said 61 people who arrived in Amsterdam on Friday on two flights from South Africa tested positive for COVID-19, and they were conducting further tests early Saturday to see if any infections were caused by Omicron. version with .

“Passengers with a positive test result will be kept in isolation at a hotel in or near Schiphol,” health officials said in a statement.

“Of the positive test results, we are researching as soon as possible whether they are a new form of anxiety, now named ‘Omicron.

The Dutch government banned all air travel from southern Africa early Friday.


Sri Lanka bans travelers from six African countries

Sri Lanka said it was stopping travelers from six southern African countries on Saturday over concerns about the new Omicron version of COVID-19.

Colombo said in a statement that from Monday, travelers from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho and Eswatini would not be allowed to enter the country.

Travelers arriving from these six countries in the last two days will have to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine.


Thailand bans entry of eight African countries

Thailand said it would ban the entry of people traveling from eight African countries that have been designated as high risk for the new Omicron version of COVID-19.

Starting in December, travel from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe will be restricted, senior health official Opus Karnakawinpong told a news conference.

He said that Thailand will not allow travelers from these countries to register for travel to Thailand from Saturday.

“We have notified airlines and these countries,” Opus said, that passengers from other African countries will not be allowed to use the country’s quarantine-free travel scheme for vaccinated passengers.


South African scientists ready for wave powered by Omicron

South Africa’s numbers are still relatively low, with 2,828 new confirmed cases reported on Friday, but Omicron’s speed in infecting young South Africans has worried health professionals.

“We are seeing a marked change in the demographic profile of patients with COVID-19,” Dr Rudo Mathiva, head of the intensive care unit at Bargavnath Hospital in Soweto, said at an online press briefing.

“Young people, in their late 20s into their 30s, are coming in with moderate to severe illness, some requiring intensive care. Around 65 per cent have not been vaccinated and only half of the rest have been vaccinated,” Mathiva said.

He said there is an urgent need for preparedness to enable public hospitals to deal with a potentially large influx of patients requiring intensive care.

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