Travel restrictions

US tightens travel restrictions as Fiji reopens to tourists

A World Health Organization official said 24 countries may have reported cases of the novel variant of the Omicron coronavirus, which was first identified last week in South Africa.

However, the first indications were that most of the cases were mild, none serious, the official said.

A case of the new variant was confirmed in Ireland on Wednesday, and Ghana, Nigeria, Norway, Saudi Arabia and South Korea were also among the latest countries to report cases.

Many countries have tightened public health restrictions in response to Omicron, especially those related to travel. Here’s what’s going on in the world:

United States

The United States is preparing to require all air travelers entering the country to show a negative Covid-19 test taken within one day of their departure, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Tuesday.

The new one-day test requirement would apply to U.S. citizens as well as foreign nationals.

The CDC lists around 80 foreign destinations as having a “level four,” its highest level of Covid-19 transmission, and discourages Americans from traveling to these destinations.

UK

British Health Secretary Sajid Javid said there are 22 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus in the UK, and that figure will rise.

Mr Javid added that he expected to learn more about the variant within two weeks, as scientists scramble to understand what impact the new variant will have.

“At the moment the number of cases is very low,” he told Sky News. “For the UK we currently have 22 confirmed cases and it will increase, it will definitely increase.”

France

France has decided to extend until at least Saturday its suspension of flights from southern African countries hard hit by the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus, French Minister of European Affairs Clément Beaune said.

“Since this morning, we have extended the suspension of flights from seven southern African countries until Saturday,” Beaune told RTL radio.

The Omicron Covid variant – first reported in southern Africa and which the World Health Organization says carries a “very high” risk of outbreaks of infection – has raised global alarm, with border closures throwing a shadow over a nascent economic recovery after a two-year pandemic.

Japan

Japan has extended its travel ban to foreigners entering the country, preventing entry of those with resident status from 10 southern African countries, as media reported that a second case of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus had been found.

Japan took some of the toughest measures in the world on Monday by closing its borders to non-Japanese for about a month in light of Omicron’s emergence. A day later, Japan’s first Omicron case – in a Namibian diplomat – was discovered.

The border closures affecting residents will be effective from Wednesday midnight for at least one month and will apply to foreign residents of South Africa, Eswatini, Namibia, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho, Angola, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

“From the point of view of prevention, we will not only limit new entries of foreigners, but also returning foreigners with residence status, unless there are special mitigating circumstances,” said Cabinet Secretary General Hirokazu Matsuno at a press conference on Wednesday.

“We will maintain a sense of urgency and keep track of the situation in various countries so that we can react quickly and flexibly.”

Among other passengers on the plane with the Namibian diplomat, he said none of the 70 people named as close contacts showed signs of illness. Health Minister Shigeyuki Goto later said his ministry was in contact with local governments to keep tabs on these people.

Media reported on Wednesday that another case was confirmed in Japan, with public television NHK saying it was a foreign man and FNN television saying it was a traveler from Peru. .

Japan’s border measures were relaxed slightly a few weeks ago, but all of those changes were reversed in a move generally applauded by the public and accepted by business leaders, despite some sectors of the economy relying on foreign interns. could be affected if the shutdown is extended.

Fiji

Fiji welcomed its first tourists on Wednesday in more than 600 days after pushing forward plans to reopen despite the threat posed by the Omicron variant.

The Pacific nation is famous for its idyllic white sand beaches and its relaxed and welcoming attitude. And it depends on the tourist dollars that these features attract.

Fiji’s economy suffered one of the world’s biggest blows from the pandemic last year, shrinking 19% and prompting the government to provide the unemployed with tools and money to become farmers.

So it was with a sense of relief that officials greeted the first sightseeing flight from Sydney. Further flights from Australia and the United States are planned in the coming days.

Fiji Airways chief executive Andre Viljoen said the airline had suffered a few cancellations in recent days following media coverage of the new variant, but had also had new bookings and new bookings, resulting in little overall change.

About 64% of the Fijian population is fully vaccinated and 70% have received at least one dose, according to a study by Our World in Data.

Germany

Four people in southern Germany have tested positive for the Omicron Covid-19 variant while fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, the Baden-Württemberg state public health office said.

Three of those infected returned from a business trip to South Africa on November 26 and 27 respectively, and the fourth person is a family member of one of the returnees, the public health office said on Tuesday. of State.

“All four people are fully vaccinated. A mutation analysis performed by the National Bureau of Health confirmed that they are all infected with the new variant of concern, ”the office said in a statement, adding that all four were in quarantine.

All four had moderate symptoms.

Malaysia

Malaysia has temporarily banned the entry of travelers from countries that have reported the Omicron Covid-19 variant or are considered high-risk, its health minister said on Wednesday.

The Southeast Asian nation joins countries around the world with little travel from southern Africa, where the variant, considered the most contagious to date, was first detected.

The travel ban applies to eight African countries, including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi, but could be extended to other countries where the variant has been detected, such as Great Britain and the Netherlands, said Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.

Malaysia will also delay plans to establish Vaccinated Travel Routes (VTLs) with affected countries and reimpose quarantine requirements for Malaysian citizens and long-term residents returning from those countries, regardless of their vaccination status. .

“These are only temporary measures until we know more about the Omicron variant,” Khairy said.

“As long as we believe it is safe, we will lift these measures.”

Malaysia, which has reported more than 2.6 million cases of the coronavirus, has gradually reopened its borders to travelers in recent weeks as infections have slowed in a high vaccination rate.

Earlier this week, Malaysia and Singapore launched a two-way joint VTL, reopening their border after nearly two years during the pandemic.

Nigeria

Nigeria has confirmed its first cases of the Omicron variant among two travelers who arrived from South Africa last week, the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) said on Wednesday.

The NCDC also said retrospective sequencing of previously confirmed cases among travelers to Nigeria identified the variant among a sample collected in October. He did not give details.

“In view of the very likely increase in the transmissibility of the Omicron variant, it is imperative that measures be put in place to curb community transmission,” the NCDC said in a statement.

The NCDC announcement comes ahead of a meeting between South African President Cyril Rampahosa and his Nigerian counterpart Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja later Wednesday, where the issue of the Omicron variant is expected to be discussed. – Reuters


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