Roundup: EU mulls obligatory jabs, restrictions tighten amid Omicron fear

Madrid Desk, Dec 1 (EFE).- The European Union must consider making vaccines mandatory in response to the detection of the Omicron coronavirus variant, Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday.

“How can we encourage and potentially think about mandatory vaccination within the European Union? This needs discussion, this needs a common approach. But it is a discussion I think has to be led,” von der Leyen told reporters in Brussels.

So far, 66.2% of the European population has received the full course of the Covid-19 vaccine.

A host of countries around the world have tightened travel rules since the detection of the Omicron variant.

France announced Wednesday that as of this weekend, travelers entering the country from outside the EU will be required to present a negative PCR test taken less than 48 hours prior.

Portugal on Wednesday tightened border controls and declared a public state of calamity after confirming 14 cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant in the country.

A negative PCR test and vaccination certificate will be required to enter the country and the Covid certificate to access restaurants, gyms and hotels. Mandatory face masks have also been reintroduced.

In Asia, Japan will from Thursday deny entry to all foreigners, including long-term residents, who have recently been to any of 10 southern African countries, with few exemptions.

Tokyo also now requires arrivals from 27 countries in which Omicron cases have been detected to undergo special quarantine measures.

Similarly, a decision by Moroccan authorities to seal off the border for two weeks has left dozens of Moroccan nationals with foreign residency stranded in their home country. Groups of people gathered outside airline offices in the capital Rabat on Wednesday hoping to bag a ticket on one of the few flights leaving the country.

Hundreds of Spanish tourists are also stuck in the North African country, with many facing a circuitous route home via Paris.

In Zimbabwe, which neighbors South Africa, where scientists first reported the Omicron variant, president Emmerson Mnangagwa ordered a 14-day mandatory quarantine for travelers entering the country, including returning residents.

Zimbabwe has not reported any cases of the new variant but is among the countries in the region facing travel bans by Western countries.

Further north on the African continent, Kenyan officials are trying to boost the vaccination program in light of the new variant.

Across the Atlantic, fear of the spread of Omicron has also led to the cancellation of New Year celebrations in over a dozen Brazilian regional capitals after three cases of the new variant were confirmed.

The list of cities cancelling their events to welcome the New Year is growing everyday just as the country was starting to return to normality. EFE


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