Saudi suspends flights to and from seven additional African countries over Omicron
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Saudi suspends flights to and from seven additional African countries over Omicron

Saudi suspends flights to and from seven additional African countries over Omicron

The kingdom has banned flights to and from 14 African countries in total, including Seychelles and Mauritius

Saudi Arabia is temporarily suspending flights to and from an additional seven countries in Africa due to concerns over the outbreak of the newly discovered coronavirus strain Omicron, it announced on Sunday.

The decision applies to Malawi, Zambia, Madagascar, Angola, Seychelles, Mauritius and Comoros, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) quoted an official source at the Ministry of Interior as saying.

The kingdom had already suspended flights to and from seven countries on Friday, including South Africa (where the variant was first detected), Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, and Eswatini.

The latest decision was taken due to the emergence of the Omicron variant in several countries and the movement of infected people from these nations to others, the SPA report said.

The source said that the non-Saudi passengers arriving directly or indirectly from the banned countries are not allowed to enter the kingdom unless they spend 14 days in other countries.

Saudi nationals from the seven countries are permitted to enter the kingdom, but will be subject to a five-day constitutional quarantine regardless of the state of vaccination, the source added.

The Ministry of Interior stressed that whoever enters the kingdom from the 14 African countries or passed through them as of November 1, 2021, is required to have a negative PCR result for the virus conducted after arriving in the kingdom.

Officials also warned Saudi citizens and residents to avoid travelling to the countries on the list until further notice.

Countries across the region and globally have restricted flights to several African nations to curb the spread of the Omicron variant.

Dubai airline Emirates has also announced flights restrictions to destinations worldwide due to governmental regulations.

Read: Covid-19: Emirates announces flight restrictions over Omicron concerns

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), researchers in South Africa and around the world are still conducting studies to better understand many aspects of Omicron.

The WHO also stressed that it is not yet clear whether Omicron is more transmissible compared to other variants, including Delta.

“The number of people testing positive has risen in areas of South Africa affected by this variant, but epidemiological studies are underway to understand if it is because of Omicron or other factors,” it said.

It is also not yet clear whether infection with Omicron causes more severe disease compared to infections with other variants, including Delta.

“There is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those from other variants. Initial reported infections were among university students — younger individuals who tend to have more mild disease — but understanding the level of severity of the Omicron variant will take days to several weeks,” WHO added.

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