Covid-19: UAE to ban entry from seven countries over Omicron concerns
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Covid-19: UAE to ban entry from seven countries over Omicron concerns

Covid-19: UAE to ban entry from seven countries over Omicron concerns

Flight will however continue to transport passengers from the UAE to these countries

Dubai airport

The UAE has announced that starting November 29, it would suspend the entry for travellers and transit passengers from seven countries including South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Mozambique over concerns of a newly identified Covid-19 variant called Omicron.

The UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) and the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Emergency Management Authority (NCEMA) said that the entry suspension is applicable travellers who were in these countries 14 days before coming to the UAE.

Flight operations will however continue to transport passengers from the UAE to these seven countries.

The GCAA added that UAE nationals, diplomatic missions, official delegations between UAE and the seven countries and golden residence holders are excluded from this latest decision.

Those excluded from this decision should present a negative Covid-19 test obtained within 48 hours of departure and a Rapid PCR test at the airport within six hours of the departure and another PCR test at the airport when arriving to UAE.

A10-day quarantine and a PCR test on the ninth day of entering the UAE is required for Emiratis, diplomatic missions and golden residence holders. However, official delegations are required to quarantine at the airport until the test result is received for them to continue their mission in UAE without 10-day quarantine, according to state-run news agency WAM.

The authorities also confirmed that those coming from these seven countries through other countries, must stay in those countries for at least 14 days before being allowed to enter the UAE.

UAE citizens are prohibited from travelling to South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique except for the emergency treatment cases, official delegations, and those with scholarships.

Other GCC countries have also adopted similar measures to contain the spread of the new variant. Saudi Arabia said that it has suspended flights from and to South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, and Eswatini.

Bahrain meanwhile has also suspended flights and entry for travellers from six countries, including South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and Eswatini.

On Friday, the World Health Organization said that a strain of coronavirus recently discovered by South African researchers is a variant of concern, posing a threat that could confound countries’ efforts to slow the spread of Covid-19.

The WHO assigned the Greek letter omicron to the variant, which had been known as B.1.1.529, following a meeting by a panel of experts Friday to discuss the strain.

In South Africa, “this variant has been detected at faster rates than previous surges in infection, suggesting that this variant may have a growth advantage,” the WHO said Friday.

Scientists say B.1.1.529 carries a high number of mutations in its spike protein, which plays a key role in the virus’ entry into cells in the body. It’s also what is targeted by vaccines, so if the protein changes enough, it raises concern that the mutations could protect it against vaccines.

The more the virus circulates, the more opportunities it has to mutate, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said before the panel’s meeting. Preliminary evidence suggests omicron may present a greater risk of reinfection than other variants of concern, the WHO said Friday.

The WHO uses “variants of concern” to signify strains that pose additional risks to global public health. So far, it has identified four of them, in addition to omicron. The WHO also calls some strains “variants of interest” if they warrant close monitoring because of their emerging risk.

South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla said Thursday the variant, first sequenced on Nov. 11, was of serious concern, and many countries followed the announcement with travel restrictions to the region. Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser to the UK Health Security Agency, said the strain is the most worrying yet.

With inputs from Bloomberg

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