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New variant of Covid-19 triggers global travel restrictions

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New variant of Covid-19 triggers global travel restrictions

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Cabin crew members cross international arrivals at London Heathrow Airport on Friday, November 26, 2021. The UK has announced it is banning flights from South Africa and five others southern African countries starting Friday at noon, and that anyone who had recently arrived from those countries would be asked to take a coronavirus test. (Alberto Pezzali / AP)

The South African government issued a statement describing the UK’s decision to ban travel from the country as “rushed” and expressed concern about the damage it would cause to “both the tourism industries and companies from both countries “.

The UK move was the first in a cascade of closures that began on Thursday as the UK announced it would temporarily suspend flights from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, from Lesotho and Eswatini.

In the hours that followed, Japan tightened border controls for travelers from the same six countries, instituting a 10-day quarantine from November 27 at midnight.

Meanwhile, Germany plans to declare South Africa a “viral variant zone” from Friday evening, meaning airlines will only be able to enter the country to repatriate German citizens.

The rest of the EU, Austria, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Malta have all announced impending entry bans on all travelers who have entered South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini over the past two weeks.

French Health Minister Olivier Véran said the “rapid” circulation of the variant in South Africa “means that it is probably contagious or very contagious”, justifying France’s precautionary position.

Singapore has chosen to ban entry to all non-residents of Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, while nationals and permanent residents returning from one of these countries will have to respect a 10 days notice of stay. (SHN). Malaysia has also taken similar steps.

The developments have led to speculation that some of the strict travel restrictions put in place at the start of the pandemic may be on the way back.

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