Sri Lanka bans travelers from 6 African countries amid Omicron fears

Colombo, Nov 27 (EFE).- Sri Lanka on Saturday joined other countries around the world in banning arrivals from six southern African nations due to a new Covid-19 variant named Omicron, which has sparked international concern.

“As a new Covid-19 variant (…) has been detected from south African countries, travelers with travel history (including transit) in the past 14 days to South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Eswatini (Swaziland) will not be permitted to disembark in Sri Lanka,” Dr. Asela Gunawardena, director general of health services at the country’s health ministry said in a new directive.

Travelers from these countries are banned from entering Sri Lanka starting Sunday.

Meanwhile, those arriving Friday and Saturday will have to undergo a PCR test on arrival and on testing negative, will have to undergo mandatory quarantine.

The orders will be revised “depending on the Covid-19 situation in the country and the global situation,” the directive added.

The announcement of the restrictions comes after the World Health Organization categorized on Friday the new variant of the coronavirus detected in South Africa as “of concern” and named it the Greek letter Omicron.

WHO said preliminary evidence suggested it carried a “higher risk of re-infection than other variants of concern,” although there is still no data to determine if it is more or less resistant to vaccines.

So far, the Omicron variant has been detected in South Africa, Botswana, Hong Kong, Israel and Belgium.

A number of countries have now enforced travel bans and restrictions to and from southern Africa.

Sri Lanka has recorded 561,059 Covid-19 cases, including 14,258 deaths from the virus, since the start of the pandemic, according to official statistics. It registered 714 new cases and 26 deaths on Friday.

The country has eased most of the restrictions that were imposed to keep the virus at bay amid a strong vaccination program, with 85 percent of the eligible population fully vaccinated. EFE


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