Omicron pushes ‘jittery governments’ to impose travel restrictions

Several countries, including Japan, Israel and Australia, have imposed strict travel measures; While US President Joe Biden said that the mutant is “a cause for concern, not panic.”

The number of countries that have discovered the new mutated coronavirus , dubbed ” Omicron ” , has risen on their soil, prompting nervous governments to impose strict travel restrictions to try to prevent its spread, while scientists race to determine how dangerous it is.

On Monday, US President Joe Biden said the mutant is “a cause for concern, not panic,” and urged Americans to get vaccinated, including a booster shot, as soon as they are eligible, and to wear masks in public.

“Sooner or later we will see new cases of this new species here in the United States , and we will have to confront this new threat just as we have faced the cases that preceded it, ” Biden said , adding that new travel ban measures are unlikely.

With cases of the mutant appearing in Hong Kong, Australia, Scotland and Sweden, many countries have chosen to be vigilant, while Japan, which has not yet detected any cases of the omicron, said on Monday it was reimposing its border controls. Morocco faces “Omicron” by suspending flights

 Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said: “We are taking the step as an emergency precaution to prevent a worst-case scenario,” according to the British Guardian newspaper.

In Israel, an overnight ban on foreigners went into effect, while Morocco said it would suspend all incoming flights for two weeks.

Australia said it would delay reopening its international borders by two weeks after the first omicron cases were reported, and India imposed mandatory on-arrival testing for travelers from dozens of countries including South Africa and Britain.

Scientists said it may take weeks to determine the severity of the “Omicron”, which was first detected in South Africa, but its appearance has already sparked a wave of reactions among governments concerned that it could hinder economic recovery .

The European Union is expected to hold a summit on the situation at the end of this week or early next week, according to senior officials, in an attempt to find a common approach on many issues, including the doses of the booster vaccine .

Despite warnings that border closures could have a limited impact and wreak havoc on livelihoods and economies, countries that chose to impose stricter travel restrictions argued that the restrictions would free up valuable time to analyze the new mutation of the virus that causes the COVID-19 pandemic .

South African infectious disease expert Professor Salem Abdel Karim said Omicron appears to be more transmissible, including among vaccinated people, but it is too early to say whether it is more virulent, while many experts have suggested that the new mutant may be More contagious, but may result in milder symptoms.

South Africa has been highly critical of the restrictions imposed by a growing number of countries on travel from the region, with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa saying that his country had been unfairly punished for discovering the mutant early.

 Increased cases of omicron

It is noteworthy that “Omicron” cases have already been reported in Europe, in Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Scotland, before Portugal identified 13 injuries among members of the professional football team Belenenses, who had recently toured South Africa.

The Dutch authorities said that they had found another case, bringing the total number in the country to 14, all of whom were among 61 passengers who tested positive for the Corona virus, among the 621 passengers who were on two flights that arrived in Amsterdam from South Africa on Friday.

Poland said on Monday it would ban flights to seven African countries, extend quarantines for some travelers and further limit numbers allowed in places like restaurants amid concerns about the new alternative.

The World Health Organization said any increase in cases could have serious consequences, but noted that no Omicron-related deaths had been reported so far.

 WHO: The situation is precarious

The Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus , said the situation remained “precarious and unstable”.

The UN agency urged its 194 member states to speed up vaccination of high-priority groups. She added that “Omicron has an unprecedented number of sudden mutations, some of which are worrisome for their potential impact on the course of the epidemic…The overall global risk related to the new variant… is assessed as very high.”

However, some countries were less anxious and tense and more relaxed. New Zealand said it would restrict travel with 9 countries in southern Africa, but insisted it would go ahead with plans to reopen its doors internally after months of closure.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she did not expect any further restrictions and that bars, restaurants and gyms could reopen in Auckland, ending a coronavirus shutdown that began in August.

“We’ve had COVID-19 in the past two years better than almost anywhere in the world,” Ardern said, noting the low death rates, the growing economy and high vaccination rates

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