EU, US Ban Travel From Southern Africa Amid New COVID Variant Fears


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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent

BRUSSELS (Worthy )— The joined the Friday in imposing travel restrictions on visitors from southern Africa after discovering a new COVID variant.

The administration of U.S. President says the limitations will apply to South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi.

The U.S. announcement came after the EU implemented the measure Friday, as the World Health Organization (WHO) expressed “concern “ and named the new variant Omicron.

The curbs were being “implemented out of an abundance of caution in light of a new variant circulating in Southern Africa”, an American official said.

Overseas, the Netherlands, which announced Friday a new nationwide night curfew, was among the first EU countries to close Amsterdam Airport Schiphol for new arrivals from Southern Africa.

Some 600 people on board two planes from South Africa were the last to enter but remained uncertain about their next moves.

PCR TESTS

They were given coronavirus “PCR” tests and must stay at the airport until their results, officials said. It was unclear if the passengers had to go into quarantine, Dutch reported.

The new Omicron variant, previously known as B.1.1.529, already holds in South Africa, and cases have reportedly been found in Botswana and, via a traveler, in Hong Kong.

The EU’s European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Brussels would propose “activating the emergency brake to stop air travel from the southern African region.”

Soon after, all 27-member states agreed, confirmed Slovenia, the nation holding the rotating EU presidency.

Von der Leyen said the move would help “limit the spread” of the variant.

News of the new variant comes as global financial markets were reportedly plummeting on the information of growing COVID-19 numbers.

WHO WARNING

The WHO already warned to take stricter measures to prevent half a million additional coronavirus deaths this EU winter. This week , Europe’s largest , announced it had recorded 100,000 coronavirus-related deaths.

The developments have led to increasing pressure on unvaccinated people across the EU, ranging from forced lockdowns to the banning from venues.

Critics of stricter policies caution that most people are elderly with underlying health conditions, including many who may have died of severe other flu symptoms.

In the Netherlands, where police fired shots last week to break up violent protests against restrictions, more demonstrations were expected.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, long seen as a liberal, seemed to move towards more government control Friday with a new night curfew being implemented.

Venues ranging from bars, restaurants, and “non-essential” shops to theaters and museums will have to close from 1700 pm till 0500 am, while face masks have to be worn in most places.

Elsewhere in Europe, Austria was the first EU nation to go into full lockdown while other EU countries considered or implemented similar measures. Critics say organizations such as WHO are pressuring governments, and they complain unvaccinated people are increasingly blamed for the hardships.

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