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World closing its doors to African countries due to omicron

A number of countries have imposed travel bans on African nations amid fears over the new COVID-19 variant omicron. 

Travel restrictions have been imposed on eight southern African countries after the potentially more contagious variant was first detected earlier this month in South Africa and Botswana.

The bans apply to South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe and Lesotho.

The UK immediately added South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe to its red list of countries deemed high risk after omicron was detected.

The European Union announced on Nov. 26 that it will block flights from these countries.

The US, Canada, Germany, France, Japan, Israel, India, Australia, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Italy, Malta, Pakistan, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman have also imposed similar travel restrictions.

Turkey also announced that it will restrict travel from South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe from Nov. 26.

The national flag carrier Turkish Airlines (THY) carried out evacuation flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg on Nov. 27 for Turkish citizens in South Africa, repatriating 71 citizens in all.

Turkey has also imposed a 14-day quarantine on passengers coming from South Africa regardless of whether they have been vaccinated or had the disease in the last 180 days.

Angola has meanwhile decided to close its borders to seven African countries to prevent the spread of the omicron variant.

Sudan has banned entry for travelers from South Africa, while Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Rwanda announced that direct flights to South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe have been temporarily suspended.

Morocco suspended passenger flights for two weeks to prevent the variant from entering the country.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Sunday there is no evidence so far concerning the transmissibility or severity of the new omicron strain.

The WHO’s regional office for Africa urged countries to follow science and health regulations rather than imposing travel bans on African nations.

The African Union criticized the travel bans on African countries while South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said the restrictions were “scientifically unjustified.

“We call upon all those countries that have imposed travel bans on our country and our southern African sister countries to immediately and urgently reverse their decisions,” he said.

John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), said the coronavirus pandemic had indicated that travel bans served little purpose in managing the spread of the virus.