Omicron: Thailand and Sri Lanka ban travellers from African countries

·2-min read
File: Thailand’s authorities have said they are going to ban entry of people travelling from eight African countries in the wake of the new Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus  (AFP via Getty Images)
File: Thailand’s authorities have said they are going to ban entry of people travelling from eight African countries in the wake of the new Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus (AFP via Getty Images)

Two Asian countries have decided to ban entry for travellers from several African countries over fears of the newly discovered omicron variant of the novel coronavirus.

Thailand’s authorities said on Saturday that it would ban travel from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe starting from December. All these countries are designated to have a high risk of those who have contracted the new coronavirus variant.

Senior health official Opas Karnkawinpong told the media that Thailand will not allow travellers from these countries to register for travel to Thailand starting on Saturday.

Mr Opas said the authorities have notified airlines and the concerned countries. He added that travellers from other African countries will not be allowed to use the country’s quarantine-free travel scheme for vaccinated travellers.

Sri Lanka has also said that was barring travel from six southern African countries. In a statement, Colombo’s authorities said travellers would not be allowed into the country from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho and Eswatini.

Anyone who travelled to Sri Lanka from these countries in the last two days will have to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

On Friday, the World Health Organisation had declared the new coronavirus variant, first reported in South Africa, to be a variant of concern.

It has since been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel. The UN health agency said the omicron variant might spread quickly to other countries.

These measures come even as other Asian countries are considering tightening their borders.

Qatar Airways said on Saturday that it had banned entry to travellers from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique because of the variant, reported Reuters.

Concerns over the new variant have emerged in India as well, where authorities called for a “rigorous screening of passengers from South Africa, Botswana, and Hong Kong.”

“This variant has serious public health implications in view of recently relaxed visa restrictions and opening of international travel,” the country’s federal health ministry said in a letter to the country’s states and union territories on Thursday.

The country has been planning to allow international travel from the middle of December. India’s prime minister Narendra Modi, however, has now called for a review of these plans.

Meanwhile, the US, Australia and Brazil are among countries that have restricted travel from South Africa.

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