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World put on high alert over the Omicron coronavirus variant

November 28, 2021 12:14 pm
[Source: NY Times]

As fears mount over the newly identified coronavirus variant Omicron, governments around the world are scrambling to protect their citizens from a potential outbreak.

The new mutation, which is potentially more transmissible, was first discovered in South Africa and has since been detected in the United Kingdom, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Czech Republic and Hong Kong.

Israel is banning all foreigners from entering the country in response to Omicron fears, authorities announced Saturday. The ban, pending government approval, is expected to last two weeks.

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Israelis returning from a country on the red list, which includes countries in southern Africa, will be required to isolate for seven days in a designated hotel.

There are seven suspected cases of the variant in Israel, in addition to one confirmed case found in a person returning from Malawi, its Health Ministry said.

Australia is urgently testing travelers who arrived in Sydney from southern Africa after they tested positive for COVID-19, the New South Wales Health Ministry said in a statement Sunday.

“Urgent genomic sequencing is underway to determine if they have been infected by the new Omicron B.1.1.529 variant of concern,” the statement said.

Other passengers on the flight may be considered a close contact and are being asked to get tested immediately, it added.

Australia has banned the entry of foreigners who have traveled to nine southern African countries in the past 14 days, including South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, and Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, South Korea has imposed restrictions on travelers from eight southern African countries, its Disease Control and Prevention Agency announced Saturday.

Foreign nationals traveling from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, Malawi and Mozambique are banned from entering South Korea, the agency said.

The issuing of visas for nationals from those countries has been suspended until further notice, it added.

Korean nationals entering from those countries must quarantine in a government-designated facility for 10 days.

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