Bangladesh on Saturday suspended travel from South Africa immediately, joining a growing list of countries banning travel to the country amid fears of the spread of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant, first detected there. Bangladesh’s Minister of Health and Family Welfare Zahid Maleque said that they are aware of the emergence of the new variant and have decided to suspend travel from South Africa, bdnews24.com reported.
This new variant is extremely aggressive and so we are suspending travel from South Africa immediately, he said. We are also strengthening screening procedures at all airports and land ports, he was quoted as saying in the report.
The minister said that they have also sent out instructions at the district level to step up enforcement of health regulations, including the wearing of masks. ”We must also be cautious about citizens travelling from other countries. We will check if they have received the vaccine and the RT-PCR test, he said.
The new potentially more contagious B.1.1.529 variant was first reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) from South Africa on November 24, and has also been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong, Israel and the UK. It was on Friday designated as a Variant of Concern by the WHO, which named it Omicron. A variant of concern is the WHO’s top category of worrying COVID-19 variants.
Countries around the world are currently racing to introduce travel bans and restrictions on southern African countries in an effort to contain Omicron’s spread. European countries along with the UK have banned travel to and from South Africa and neighbouring countries of Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana, as well as Lesotho and Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), both of which are landlocked within South Africa.
Other countries include Mauritius, Israel, Sri Lanka, the US and the Netherlands. Many other countries followed suit, most of them indicating that only their own citizens would be allowed back, subject to a quarantine period.
In New Delhi, the Indian government asked all states and union territories to conduct rigorous screening and testing of all international travellers coming from or transiting through South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana, where a new variant has been detected.