- WHO has named the new COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529 as 'Omicron
- Several nations have already announced a ban on travellers from South Africa
- India has also said travellers would need to follow additional measures on arrival in the country
As several countries have decided to impose restrictions on travellers from South Africa amid concerns over the detection of the 'Omicron' COVID-19 variant, the nation's Health Minister Joe Phaahla on Friday termed the step as 'unjustified'. There is no proof that the new COVID variant is more dangerous or resistant to vaccines, the South African health minister said.
The reaction came after the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday named the new COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529, which has been detected in South Africa, as 'Omicron' and alarmed the siren among countries of the new variant.
As reported by Sputnik, Joe Phaahla said that the reaction of countries in Europe and other regions to the emergence of a new coronavirus strain is "unjustified," as currently there is no proof that it is more dangerous or resistant to vaccines.
"We want to assure South Africans and other people elsewhere in the world that we believe some of the reactions have actually been unjustified, referring here specifically to the reaction of countries in Europe, the UK, a number of other countries," Joe Phaahla said.
"The reaction of some countries in terms of imposing travel bans and such measures are completely against the norms and standards as guided by the World Health Organization," the health minister added.
As reported by Sputnik, the minister said that while the new strain has been detected and is proven to be highly mutated, there is still no proof that it is more dangerous than other strains.
Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands were among those on Friday that joined the United Kingdom in restricting flights from southern Africa
The UK announced it would be temporarily suspending flights from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini.
India on Friday also said travellers would need to follow additional measures on arrival in the country.
These measures also include post-arrival testing. Countries from where the travellers would need to follow additional measures on arrival in India are South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Israel, Hong Kong, countries in Europe including the UK.
Meanwhile, the US has also ordered additional air travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other countries. These new restrictions will take effect on November 29, President Joe Biden said.
Japan has tightened border controls for travellers from the same six countries, bringing in a 10-day quarantine beginning 12 a.m. on Nov. 27.
Fellow EU nations Austria, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Malta have all announced imminent entry bans to all travelers who've entered South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini in the past two weeks. Switzerland has banned all direct flights from the same seven countries as well, CNN reported.
Egypt, Singapore, Malaysia, Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have also announced restrictions on the seven countries.
Meanwhile, Germany plans to declare South Africa a "virus variant area" from Friday night, which will mean that airlines may only enter from the country to repatriate German citizens.
President Biden announced that the United States will restrict travel from South Africa and seven other countries starting Monday as a new coronavirus variant has emerged.
The South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases had confirmed that the new variant has been detected in 22 infected patients and demonstrated more mutations than any of its predecessors, Sputnik reported.
The epidemiological situation in South Africa has been characterized by three distinct peaks in reported cases, the latest of which was predominantly the Delta variant, the WHO informed in a statement.
(With inputs from ANI)