After numerous countries have tightened their travel policies to southern Africa to curb the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus, the World Health Organization (WHO) has expressed its rejection of these drastic restrictions. It therefore calls for decisions to be guided by science and for support to be given to African countries.
The discovery of this new variant of the coronavirus, identified as B.1.1.529 and baptized with the Greek letter omicron by the World Health Organization (WHO), was announced last Thursday by scientists and health authorities in South Africa, based on samples taken between November 14 and 16. Since then, cases have been confirmed in Botswana, Hong Kong, Israel, Belgium, Australia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany, among other countries.
Despite the limited information available, many countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States and European Union countries, quickly announced drastic travel restrictions for southern African countries, measures that generated strong unease on the African continent.
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Uruguay will allocate 200,000 doses of the US Pfizer vaccine to foreign tourists from December 1, date on which they will be able to get an appointment for its administration, announced this Friday the Secretary of the Presidency, Álvaro Delgado.
At a press conference held at the Executive Tower, headquarters of the Uruguayan Government, together with the Minister of Tourism, Tabaré Viera, Delgado explained that the availability of vaccines for non-residents was opened when the Executive of Luis Lacalle Pou (center-right) guaranteed the necessary amount for the country’s citizens.
A maximum of 4 visitors per household is advised and teleworking is encouraged during full working hours. The measures will come into force in the early hours of Sunday morning and will be applied until December 18, although the Executive will announce earlier whether the measures will be lifted or maintained or reinforced during Christmas, based on the epidemiological situation.
The Ministry of Health has reported 9,912 new infections on this day, an increase compared to Thursday, when it recorded 9,258 positives, a figure not seen since the beginning of September.
U.S. bans travel from South Africa and other countries in the world
As of early Sunday morning, the suspension will be lifted by putting in place a ten-day quarantine system for travelers from these countries in hotel establishments.
London has adopted these restrictions after having declared the variant, B.1.1.529, Variant under investigation (VuI) by the Health Security Agency of the country considering that “it includes a large number of mutations (…) potentially significant from the biological point of view that can change the behavior of the virus in relation to vaccines, treatments and transmissibility.
For its part, the Government of Israel has added South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Esuatini to the list of countries whose travelers are banned from entering, the Prime Minister’s office, Naftali Bennett, said after a special meeting.
Foreigners from these countries can no longer travel to Israel from those areas, and Israelis returning from there must stay in quarantine for up to 14 days in a coronavirus hotel. After one week they can leave if they test negative in a PCR test, while, in case of refusal, they will have to stay two weeks in quarantine in the accommodation.
US, Canada and Europe limit travel from southern Africa for
The World Health Organization (WHO) today determined that the new variant of the coronavirus detected in South Africa, which it has named with the Greek letter omicron, is “at risk” and possibly more contagious, on a day when many states, including the U.S. and the EU, suspended travel with southern Africa.
South African scientists and health authorities reported Thursday the detection of a new variant of the coronavirus, identified as B.1.1.529, and although few cases have been confirmed elsewhere outside Africa, concerns about its transmissibility and potential ability to evade immunity sparked fears.
Before and after the WHO experts’ opinion, fear of this new variant of the coronavirus today led to a cascading suspension of travel and restrictions on some southern African states.
The U.S. government, which had decided to wait for more information before deciding whether to suspend air traffic with South Africa and other African countries, announced later that as of next Monday it will place restrictions on travelers from South Africa and seven other southern countries: Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.