New Variant: France, Saudi Arabia and several countries restrict travel from southern African


PARIS — France announced Friday it is prohibiting entry for passengers from southern African countries for at least 48 hours because it is concerned about the detection of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Travellers from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini, will no longer be able to enter France, regardless of their vaccination status, Anadolu Agency (AA) reported according to a statement from the office of Prime Minister Jean Castex.

The government said it was forced to invoke the measure on the “principle of maximum precaution” as no cases of the Omicron variant have been detected in France.

National carrier Air France also announced it is suspending scheduled flights to and from South Africa. It will fly to Paris with only a crew from Johannesburg without any passengers, BFMTV news reported.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) labelled the new strain, B.1.1.529, a “variant of concern” and cited it as responsible for the steep increase in coronavirus cases in South Africa.

There is an increased risk of reinfection due to the variant but studies are still underway to evaluate its exact effects.

The government called on travellers to suspend planned visits to the banned countries and advised those who have traveled there in the past 14 days to report to authorities and perform a RT-PCR test.

There has been an explosion in the number of cases during the fifth wave of the pandemic in France, which has commenced with “lightning speed,” according to authorities.

As of Friday, 34,436 new cases and 60 deaths have been recorded by the public health department in the last 24 hours.

On the same development, Saudi Arabia also banned travel to and from the seven African countries Friday.

The Kingdom’s Interior Ministry said flights were cancelled due to the B.1.1.529 variant found in South Africa and Botswana, AA reported according to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

The suspensions affect Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, in JERUSALEM, Israel announced Friday that it banned travel to most African nations, excluding the north of the continent, because of the emergence of a new coronavirus variant.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said following an emergency meeting that the new variant from southern Africa is “extremely concerning.”

Bennett said that those who arrived from that part of the world should isolate for 14 days.

With one case of the new variant found in Israel, and officials fearing that number would rise, Bennett said his Cabinet will meet Saturday to discuss new measures.

In MOROCCO, the Moroccan Inter-Ministerial Coordination Committee said that due to the new variant, those coming from the seven countries would not be allowed to enter the country.

In EGYPT, the Egyptian Health Ministry increases quarantine preparation for all air, land and sea entrances to combat the mutated version of the virus.

It said that measures at entrances have been increased to the level of verification to ensure incoming passengers are not infected with the virus, AA reported.