Sri Lanka bars arrivals with travel history to 6 African countries

Scanner checks people from China for Coronavirus at Bandaranaike International airport in Katunayake Sri Lanka

As the newly-detected highly mutated Covid-19 variant of concern ‘Omicron’ sparked serious global worry, Sri Lanka has decided to ban the arrival of foreign travellers who have been to six countries in the African continent.

Accordingly, passengers with a travel history to South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini within the last 14 days will not be allowed entry to the island nation, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced.

Anyone who arrived from the aforementioned countries is urged to undergo quarantine.

The variant was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) from South Africa on 24 November. It has also been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel.

It was revealed that the virus strain, first called B.1.1.529, carries an unusually high number of mutations. Researchers said the Omicron variant has about 50 mutations, more than 30 of which are on the spike protein.

With increasing concerns across the world over the new COVID variant of concern, the United Kingdom was the first to impose a travel ban on six countries in southern Africa.

Later, the United States, EU countries and Switzerland also temporarily halted flights to and from some southern African countries.

Japan announced that travellers from much of southern Africa will need to quarantine for 10 days starting from Saturday and take a total of four COVID tests during that time.

India has ordered more rigorous screening and testing for travellers arriving from South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong, according to local media.

Meanwhile, Iran will ban travellers from six southern African countries, including South Africa. Iranians arriving from the region will be admitted after testing negative twice, state TV says.

In response, South Africa’s Health Minister Joe Phaahla told reporters that the flight bans were “unjustified”.

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