THE UK is taking a step back on its travel ban and is planning to resume direct flights between South Africa from Tuesday. Picture: David Ritchie African News Agency (ANA)
THE UK is taking a step back on its travel ban and is planning to resume direct flights between South Africa from Tuesday. Picture: David Ritchie African News Agency (ANA)

European countries scramble to curb the spread of Omicron

By Shifaan Ryklief Time of article published Nov 29, 2021

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CAPE TOWN: Countries across Europe are scrambling to impose new travel bans, in a bid to stop the spread of the new Omicron Covid-19 variant.

Although South Africa’s Covid-19 infection numbers remain relatively low compared with others around the world, after it reported cases of the new variant last week, countries such as the UK, France, and Germany all halted flights to and from the country, with some imposing an immediate travel ban.

Despite the frenzy abroad, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced – in a national address on Sunday – that the country would maintain a less stringent Covid-19 lockdown level one, although it would be on high alert.

The latest daily statistics showed 2 858 new cases of the coronavirus on Sunday, 362 less than the previous day.

By comparison, according to data tracking website Worldometers, the latest daily new cases in the UK were 37 681, versus 31 648 for France, while Germany had 38 444.

German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported on Sunday that the country had detected three cases of the Omicron variant, while the Netherlands had detected 13.

“The sequencing has confirmed the result … the suspected case, which was made public yesterday morning, is the omicron variant,” social affairs minister in the state of Hesse Kai Klose posted on Twitter.

In a statement, the Netherlands National Institute for Public Health said the 13 people infected with the new variant were among 61 passengers, who had tested positive for Covid-19. Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said investigations had not been completed yet and the new variant might still be found in more test samples.

The UK detected three cases, Denmark registered two, Italy reported one person who had travelled from Mozambique, the Czech Republic confirmed a case in a female patient, and France reported eight cases.

The spokesperson of South Africa’s Department of International Relations (Dirco) Clayson Monyela tweeted on Sunday that the UK was taking a step back on its travel ban and planning to resume direct flights to and from South Africa from Tuesday.

Some of the restrictions that the UK plans to put in place, in response to the new variant, include compulsory face coverings in public, while all suspected Omicron cases will be required to self-isolate for 10-days – regardless of vaccination status – and anyone entering the UK needs a PCR test within 48 hours of arrival.

African News Agency (ANA)

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