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Home / Business / Travel doors slam shut as new Covid variant triggers alarm

Travel doors slam shut as new Covid variant triggers alarm

(CNN) – Hundreds of passengers from South Africa were detained at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam on Friday after the Netherlands imposed new travel restrictions amid concerns about an aggressive mutation of the Cowid-19 virus.

The European Union and other major destinations have moved to block flights from African countries following the discovery of the variant, echoing previous emergency responses that triggered a global freeze on travel.

Two South African flights, one from Cape Town, one from Johannesburg, landed late Friday morning local time in Schiphol, an airport spokesman said. The passengers had to stay on the flight while a separate, safe place at the airport was located and waiting to be tested, he said.

The spokesman estimated that the two pilots carried between them 400 and 600 passengers. Given the large number of travelers involved, “it will take time to try everyone,” he said.

Italy, Austria, France, Germany, Japan, Dubai, Jordan and the UK are also among the imposing restrictions on flights and travelers of six African nations after the new strain was detected in South Africa, Botswana and two travelers in quarantine in Hong Kong. . A case has also been reported in Belgium.

The World Health Organization announced Friday that it has designated the newly identified variant, B.1.1.529, as a variant of concern, named Omicron.

While only dozens of Cases have been identified till now, news of the variant, which has around twice the amount of mutations as the Delta variant, is already igniting fears around the world.

On Friday, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) warned against travel bans, stressing that such restrictions are “not a long-term solution” when it comes to managing Covid-19 variants.

“Governments respond to the risks of the new coronavirus variant in emergency mode which caused fear among the traveling public.

“As quickly as possible we must use the experience of the last two years to move towards a coordinated data-driven approach that finds certain alternatives to border closures and quarantine,” said IATA Director General Willy Walsh in a statement.

Tourism fears

The cascade of closures began late Thursday as the UK announced it would be temporarily suspended flights from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Esvatini, with Health Secretary Sajid Javid describing the variant as the “worst 19 tom” .

The movement condemned the South African government’s statement that the United Kingdom’s decision had been “expired”, and expressed concern about the damage it would do to “both the tourism industry and businesses of both countries.”

In the hours since, Japan has tightened border controls for travelers from the same six countries, bringing in a 10-day quarantine beginning at 12:00 November 27th.

Meanwhile, Germany plans to declare South Africa a “virus variant region” by Friday night, which would mean that airlines can only enter from the country to repatriate German citizens.

EU co-workers The countries of Austria, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Malta have all announced immediate bans on all travelers entering South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Esvatini in the last two weeks.

French Health Minister Olivier Véran said the “rapid” circulation of the variant in South Africa “meets that it is probably contagious or very contagious,” justifying France’s precautions.

After Belgium reported that one person recently arrived from Egypt had tested positive for B.1.1.529, France said it was “strengthening” control at its border with Belgium.

Singapore has decided to ban all non-residents of Botswana, Esvatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe from entering, while nationals and permanent residents returning from any of the countries will be required to rent a 10-day stay home Notice. (Shn). Malaysia and the Philippines have taken similar steps.

Dubai will restrict travelers who originated from or transiting from the same seven African countries starting Monday until further notice, Emirates Airline said, citing Dubai’s Covid-19 command and control center.

Outbound passenger flights from Dubai to the listed countries are permitted, however, the Emirates statement said.

Meanwhile, Jordan has announced that any Jordanians coming from several countries including South Africa will have to go into government quarantine for 14 days, according to a report Friday by the Jordanian public broadcaster Al Mamlaka TV.

Non-Jordanians traveling from South Africa, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Esvatini and Botswana will be allowed only if they spend 14 days outside the countries in a third country, Al Mamlaka TV said, quoting the country’s Interior Ministry . The new measures will go into effect Sunday.

The US.

Anthony Foukey, Chief Medical Officer of US

These developments have led to speculation, severe curbs on travel brought in at the onset of the pandemic may be on their way back.

Back to restrictions?

Germany has also joined the list of countries banning flights from South Africa.

Germany has also joined the list of countries banning flights from South Africa.

Boris Rossler / Image Bond / Getty Images

“There’s definitely a feeling at the moment that restrictions are returning,” said Rory Boland, travel editor at Consumer Magazine Why? Told CNN.

“Not only Southern Africa, Portugal has again introduced tests for double vaccinated arrivals, and other countries are increasing restrictions. When you are in the country too, many countries require tests on top of vaccination. There are increasing restrictions on boosters.

“There’s a feeling that travel is more difficult again – and this is against a background of many people who do not feel safe to travel already.”

Experts from the World Health Organization have said that although it is still too early to measure what kind of impact the mutation will have, people should start taking precautions right now to reduce the chances of their exposure to it.

She said it will take researchers several weeks to understand why [the new variant] Means, but action is needed in the meantime.

“Everybody who is there needs to understand that the more the virus circulates, the more opportunities the virus has to change, the more mutations we will see,” she said.

Every single one of her watches has a role to play in driving transmission down, as well as protecting herself against severe illness and death.

“So get vaccinated whenever you can, make sure you get the full rate of your doses, and make sure you take steps to reduce your exposure and prevent yourself from the virus to someone else.”

Financial impact

Although it may be too early to assess the impact of the virus, the news of its emergence and the flight ban is enough to cause stock markets.

European stocks closed down sharply lower after fears of a new Covid variant sparked a global sell-off. In the UK, the FTSE 100 ended the session 3.6% lower, while Germany’s ducks were down 4% and the CAC 40 was 4.8% lower in France. Dow futures are also sharply down.

Asian stocks started the sale, with Hong Kong’s Hong Kong index dropping 2.7%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 was down 2.5%.

Travel stocks and airline stocks were among the big fallers in Europe.

The recent anxiety comes as another blow to the travel industry, which has struggled to rebound after being brought to an almost standstill during the first waves of the pandemic.

There are now fears some travel companies may not survive if the situation with the new variant is worse.

“I think so unfortunately – I’m not saying they might be boosted in the next couple weeks, but the financial situation in many is very, very challenging,” said Boland.

“It’s not only that bookings are down, but they must constantly issue refunds. They have difficulties getting financing from banks. There are a number of market conditions that work against them.

“The UK has very little sector specific support from government, so there is a real risk of further holiday chaos and airlines going boost.”

He further stressed that consumers should always check restrictions in any destinations they plan to travel before booking and make sure they have appropriate coverage in case.

“It’s really important to have coverage for your holiday company or airline that will be boosted. Otherwise, you could end up losing hundreds or thousands of pounds.”

Top image credit: Leon Neal / Getty Images

Sharon Braithwite of CNN, Julia Buckley, Barry Needle, Niam Kennedy, Pete Montian, David Mackenzie, Angela Devan, Allegra Goodwin, Mick Krever, Xiaofei Xu, Naomi Thomas, Tim Lister, Amy Cassidy, Robert North, Chris Liakos, Pierre Bairin, Mostafa Salem, Celine Alkaldi,
Jomana Karadsheh and Mohammed Tawfeeq have contributed to the story.

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