Japan announced it will reinstate tough border controls and bar all foreign arrivals because of the fast-moving Omicron coronavirus variant just weeks after a softening of strict entry rules.
Japan is the latest country to impose stricter border restrictions to limit the spread of the new COVID strain, which scientists say has a high number of mutations, potentially making its spread much faster.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warned against countries hastily imposing travel curbs. However, numerous bans have been introduced in recent days. The UK, EU, and US are among those to impose travel restrictions on people in mostly southern Africa nations.
Here are the latest updates:
Singapore blocks Middle East airlines
Singapore has deferred the start of vaccinated travel lanes with Middle Eastern countries, such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, in view of their role as “transport nodes” for affected countries, its health ministry says.
The wealthy Southeast Asian city-state and neighbouring Malaysia re-opened their land border, one of the world’s busiest, allowing vaccinated travellers to cross after a shutdown that lasted nearly two years.
US scientist Fauci defends travel ban on African countries
The United States’ top infectious diseases expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, defended the travel restrictions imposed by the Biden administration in response to the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
The US plans to ban travel from South Africa and seven other southern African countries starting Monday. Fauci stressed the purpose of any travel ban was to buy time to ramp up preparedness, urging not to let the measure “go without a positive effect”.
First suspected case of Omicron detected in Switzerland
The first probable case of the Omicron variant has been detected in Switzerland, as the country tightens its entry restrictions to check its spread.
The case relates to a person who returned to Switzerland from South Africa a week ago, the Federal Office for Public Health said on Twitter. Testing will clarify the situation in the coming days, it added.
Switzerland has ordered travellers from 19 countries must present a negative test when boarding a fight to the country, and must go into quarantine for 10 days on arrival. The list includes Australia, Denmark, Britain, Czech Republic, South Africa and Israel.
New variant not stopping New Zealand reopening
The emergence of the Omicron variant has not changed New Zealand’s plans to ease restrictions in Auckland and move the nation into a new, more open phase of its pandemic response, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.
Bars, restaurants and gyms in Auckland can reopen from late Thursday, ending a coronavirus lockdown that began in August.
Around the country, a new “traffic light” system will bring an end to lockdowns, but people will need to be fully vaccinated in order to guarantee participation in anything from getting a haircut to watching a concert.
Japan to bar new foreign arrivals over virus variant
Japan says it would bar entry to foreigners to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus, joining Israel in the strictest border measures yet since the variant’s discovery.
Tokyo already announced it would require travellers permitted to enter Japan from six southern African countries to quarantine in government-designated facilities for 10 days on arrival.
Japan’s borders have been almost entirely shut to new overseas visitors for most of the pandemic, with even foreign residents at one point unable to enter the country.
No Omicron cases have been detected in the country so far. One traveller from Namibia was found to be positive for the coronavirus, and further tests were being conducted to find out if it was from the new variant, Health Minister Shigeyuki Goto said.
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