Travel bans
(Constantine Johnny, Getty)
  • The list of countries with confirmed Omicron infections continues to grow.
  • So do the list of countries that have now banned southern Africans, or which are hardening borders further.
  • Japan is locking out even residents, while Uzbekistan announced a two-tier system with bans for those from Africa, and quarantine for those travelling from other countries with the new variant.
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More countries reported confirmed cases of the Omicron variant on Wednesday, and more countries banned travellers from southern Africa – but typically not from elsewhere in the world with known Omicron infections.

Japan said on Wednesday it would bar even Japanese residents who are not citizens from entering the country if they had been in South Africa or elsewhere in southern Africa in the previous ten days.

Previously Japan, as most other countries, allowed both citizens and those with residency rights through its borders.

The hardened border will be effective from 2 December "for the time being", with only those who can show exceptional circumstances considered for entry. The same holds for diplomats and others who were previously exempt from the rules, with the Japanese government promising much closer scrutiny of such cases.

Malaysia too announced stricter rules around Omicron, hardening a previous flight ban, saying it would require quarantine even for vaccinated citizens returning from southern Africa.

Also on Wednesday, France said it would extend its ban on flights from southern Africa until at least Saturday.

France was one of very few countries to put any kind of deadline on the reversal of flight and entry bans, initially banning flights for only 48 hours. But it has continued to renew that ban, saying it did not yet have enough information about Omicron.

France has not taken the same approach to non-African countries where Omicron has been detected.

Uzbekistan on Wednesday announced a two-tier system in place from 3 December, with flights suspended from South Africa and the rest of the region, and 10-day quarantine periods for travellers from a list of other countries where Omicron has been detected, such as the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

At the same time the list of countries with known Omicron infections continued to grow. Saudi Arabia said it had found the Omicron variant in a Saudi national who had returned from North Africa, and Nigeria said it had found the virus in a sample taken in October. The first cases were also reported in Latin America, in Brazilian missionaries who lived in South Africa.

Denmark, which previously detected the variant, said it had identified a carrier who attended a concert alongside some 1,600 other people on Saturday.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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