The United Arab Emirates suspended flights Friday from seven southern African nations because of a new coronavirus variant.
The Emirates News Agency, WAM, said on Twitter that travel bans for South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Eswatini will take effect beginning Monday.
Qatar also updated its travel and return policy for exceptional red list countries following the emergence of the new variant, according to its Ministry of Public Health.
Qatar Airways tweeted that it will not allow passengers to board flights from South Africa and Zimbabwe.
South Africa’s health minister has condemned the travel restrictions being imposed against the country after the discovery of a new coronavirus variant.
Speaking to reporters on Friday evening, Joe Phaahla says the introduction of travel restrictions by a number of countries against southern African nations are “completely against the norms and standards” set out by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“We want to reassure South Africans that some of the reaction has been unjustified,” Phaahla says.
He adds that foreign scientists have not presented any evidence that the new variant has the capacity to evade protection offered by vaccines, though he accepts that early signs suggest it is more transmissible.
He calls on South Africans to come forward and receive the jab, which he says remains a “major bulwark” against infection and severe illness.
The new heavily mutated variant that might be able to evade vaccines, was first identified Nov. 11 in Botswana.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared Friday that the new variant is a “variant of concern,” and named it Omicron.
The declaration came after the Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution, an independent group of experts, met to assess the variant that was initially named B.1.1.529.
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