US and Australia join global rush to curb Omicron variant

The United States, Australia and Canada on Saturday joined a growing list of countries imposing travel restrictions from southern Africa after the WHO declared Omicron, a new strain of Covid-19 first detected in South Africa, a ” worrying variant “.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said the new variant may spread more rapidly than other Covid-19 variants and preliminary evidence suggests there is an increased risk of reinfection.

Epidemiologists cautioned that travel curbs may be too late to prevent Omicron from circulating globally. The new mutations were first discovered in South Africa and have since been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong.

Read FRANCE 24’s coverage of the day’s events.

8:25 Paris time

Additional Testing for Covid-19 Positive Passengers from South Africa in Amsterdam

Dutch health authorities said Saturday that 61 people who arrived in Amsterdam on two flights from South Africa on Friday tested positive for Covid-19, and were conducting further tests to see if any of the infections are with the recently discovered Omicron variant of the coronavirus. .

Around 600 passengers arrived at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport on the two KLM flights on Friday and then faced hours of delays and testing due to concerns about the new variant of the virus.

The Dutch Health Ministry said that 61 tests were positive early Saturday.

“Travelers with a positive test result will be held in solitary confinement in a hotel in or near Schiphol,” health authorities said in a statement.

“From the positive test results, we are investigating as quickly as possible whether they are the new variant of interest, now called ‘Omicron’.”

The Dutch government banned all air travel from southern Africa on Friday morning. Health Minister Hugo de Jonge determined that passengers already heading to the Netherlands would have to undergo testing and quarantine upon arrival.

Passengers on the two KLM flights, from Cape Town and Johannesburg, said they were kept waiting on the tarmac for hours.

“Loud applause because there is a BUS that has come to take us … somewhere,” tweeted New York Times reporter Stephanie Nolen, a passenger on the Johannesburg flight who later said she had tested negative.

Vigorous applause because there is a BUS that has come to take us … somewhere. We don’t know where, but we’re still dizzy enough to think it has to be better than here.

– Stephanie Nolen (@snolen) November 26, 2021

A spokesman for health authorities in Kennemerland, the Dutch region that oversees Schiphol, said an academic medical hospital was testing the positive cases to determine if they are the new strain.

8:20 Paris time

Thailand bans entry from high-risk countries

Thailand announces an entry ban for people traveling from eight African countries that it has designated as high risk for the new Omicron variant.

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

Thailand will not allow travelers from these countries to register to travel to Thailand from Saturday, he said.

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

8:03 Paris time

Oman bans travelers from seven southern African states

Oman has suspended entry to travelers from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Eswatini from November 28 due to the spread of the new Omicron variant, the country’s state news agency said in a tweet on Saturday.

4:31 Paris time

Australia begins 14-day quarantine for citizens traveling from South Africa

Australia imposed new restrictions on Saturday on people who have been to nine southern African countries. They include South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Seychelles, Malawi, and Mozambique.

Effective immediately, the government will bar entry to non-citizens who have been to those countries and require 14-day supervised quarantines for Australian citizens and their dependents returning from the countries, Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

These restrictions also apply to people such as international students and qualified migrants arriving from countries with which Australia has travel bubbles, who have been to any of the nine countries in the last 14 days.

“If the medical evidence shows that further action is required, we will not hesitate to take it. And that may mean strengthening or expanding restrictions,” he said.

Anyone who has already arrived in Australia and who has been to any of those countries in the last 14 days should isolate themselves and get tested immediately.

The Australian government will also suspend all flights from the nine southern African countries for two weeks.

Twenty travelers from South Africa are in quarantine at the Howard Springs facility in the Northern Territory, 19 of whom have tested negative for coronavirus. It is not yet known if the only positive test result is the Omicron variant, Hunt said.

4:18 Paris time

The CDC says no cases of Omicron have been identified in the United States so far.

To date, no cases of the new Omicron variant have been identified in the US, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

“We hope that Omicron will be identified quickly, if it emerges in the United States,” the CDC said in a statement.

00:45 Paris time

United States imposes travel ban on eight African countries

The United States will bar most travelers from eight southern African countries from Monday.

The restrictions apply to South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi. Most non-US citizens who have been in those countries for the previous 14 days will not be able to enter the US.

“As a precautionary measure until we have more information, I am ordering additional restrictions on air travel from South Africa and seven other countries,” President Joe Biden said in a statement.

The president told reporters during a walk on Nantucket that his medical team recommended that the ban begin Monday rather than immediately.

( Jowharwith AFP, AP and REUTERS)

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