Governments Worldwide Impose Travel Bans on Fears of Omicron Strain

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Omicron: US, Canada, Germany on Israel's 'Red list'

London (dpa) – Several more governments have imposed restrictions on travel from countries in southern Africa and others in order to curb the spread of a new and potentially more dangerous coronavirus variant.

Their fears were triggered by the emergence of Omicron, a new variant first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) from South Africa on November 24. The WHO has since classified it as a “variant of concern.”

Several Asian countries joined the list of states worldwide that have imposed temporary flight restrictions from southern Africa, including the United States, Canada, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and EU member states.

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Indonesia has banned foreigners with a travel history to South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, Eswatini, and Nigeria within the past 14 days.

Pakistan banned travel from South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia as well as Hong Kong, where two people are infected with the Omicron strain.

Australia has imposed a similar entry ban for non-citizens arriving from southern Africa. The health authorities there also confirmed the presence of two cases of the Omicron strain on Sunday.

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Israel, meanwhile, is to ban all foreigners from entering the country from Sunday evening, after a decision by its coronavirus cabinet late on Saturday, according to media reports.

The move came after Israel confirmed one case of the Omicron strain, while seven other Covid-19 cases are being investigated.

Cases have also been confirmed in Britain, Germany, Belgium and Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel, among other countries.

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Fears are growing that the new variant is more transmissible, although much remains unclear.

However, the European Centre for Disease Control has said that the strain could significantly reduce the effectiveness of the available vaccines and increase the risk of reinfection.

Meanwhile South Africa’s medical association said people who have caught the Omicron strain of Covid-19 have not become seriously ill, although many are young.

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So far, the cases detected in South Africa are not serious, Angelique Coetzee, who chairs the South African Medical Association, told the BBC broadcaster.

Research into the variant is still at a very early stage though, she said, adding that only 24 per cent of people are fully vaccinated in the country.

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“The patients are mostly complaining about a sore body and tiredness, extreme tiredness and we see it in the younger generation, it’s not the older people,” she said.

These were not patients who were admitted directly to hospital, Coetzee said.

In comments to other media, Coetzee expressed concerns that the variant might have on older people with underlying conditions such as heart disease or diabetes.

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The symptoms of the new variant are unusual but mild, she said, adding that she was first alerted to the possibility of a new variant when patients with unusual symptoms for Covid-19 came to her practice in Pretoria in early November complaining of severe fatigue.

Coetzee was reportedly the first South African doctor to alert authorities to patients with a new variant on November 18.

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