Malaysia just lifted its Omicron ban on SA; no word from allies Russia and Brazil

Business Insider SA
Travel bans
Travels bans for South Africans, as of 28 December. (Mapbox and OpenStreetmap, via Kayak)
  • Malaysia announced on Tuesday it was dropping its travel ban on southern African countries, including South Africa.
  • Like many other countries that have since reversed bans, Malaysia closed its borders to SA for fear of Omicron.
  • European countries – and BRICS allies other than India – have not announced yet announced when South Africans will be allowed entry again.
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Malaysia on Tuesday said it would drop a travel ban on southern African countries – including South Africa – as the restrictions "make no sense anymore because Omicron is coming from all the other countries"

Malaysia had been among the many countries that closed their borders to South Africans after scientists in the region identified Omicron, and raised the alarm about its potential for harm.

South Africa and its neighbours now join Malaysia's high-risk list, which also features India, the United Kingdom, and the USA. That means residents are strongly advised to avoid travel to South Africa.

The country remains concerned about the potential domestic spread of the coronavirus, and said it would ban mass celebrations for New Year's Eve, and would require negative Covid-19 tests for private events.

Malaysia joins a substantial list of countries that have dropped Omicron-induced bans, because they have detected high levels of community transmission of the variant, have found bans impractical because of the spread of the variant to other countries, or have been reassured by data from SA that suggests it may not result in as many hospitalisations as previous variants.

See also | Israel is removing Zimbabwe and Lesotho from its red list – but not South Africa

The USA will lift its restrictions on New Year's Eve, and Ireland has lifted what was termed "enhanced" rules for those from southern Africa, while Denmark dropped quarantine restrictions specific to the region.

The combined reversals have reopened much of the list of destinations to which South Africans most commonly travel, and has also reopened major transit routes.

But notable exceptions (such as big swathes of Europe) remain, including some of South Africa's allies.

China has maintained strict entry rules covering a significant part of the world, and has recently ramped up domestic restrictions too. Two other parts of the BRICS alliance, Russia and Brazil, have maintained entry bans. Neither has announced when it may consider lifting the bans, or said on what basis they are being retained. 

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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