The new Omicron strain of COVID-19 has prompted a wave of new travel bans © Getty Images
The new Omicron strain of COVID-19 has prompted a wave of new travel bans © Getty Images

These countries have imposed travel restrictions due to the Omicron COVID-19 variant

TripFalcon November 30, 2021

Last Update: 2024-01-03 23:48:51

Cases of the fast-spreading Omicron COVID-19 variant are continuing to pop up around the world, as many countries rush to close their borders and tighten travel restrictions to curb the spread.

Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, the UK, Denmark, and Austria are among the countries that have detected the potentially more contagious Omicron variant just days after it was first identified by researchers in South Africa—and many are tightening up their rules again.

New Omicron travel rules

Israel and Japan have taken a particularly hard line against the new strain by banning all foreign visitors. The UK's reponse was to reintroduce mask mandates and PCR tests for travelers, and a temporary ban on flights from several southern African countries. The ban was lifted after Sunday, but entry is limited to legal residents return from southern Africa who will also be required to quarantine. Canada has also put a travel ban on South Africa and neighboring nations.

The US has not yet detected the Omicron strain but from today it will ban entry of any foreign national who has been in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, Malawi or eSwatini in the previous two weeks, and has advised US citizens against travel to those countries. However, returning US citizens or permanent residents can enter the US under the current COVID-19 entry rules when traveling from those nations.

The EU has proposed putting an "emergency brake" on arrivals from seven southern African countries, and most member states have already agreed to it as a surge in Delta-driven COVID-19 infections continues to hit the region hard.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has labelled Omicron as a variant of concern and has said the "overall global risk related to the new assessed as very high", but has warned governments against closing their borders now that the variant has been detected in many countries.

"Flight bans have been imposed on southern African countries, but so far only two have detected the new variant. Meanwhile countries in other regions have reported cases of Omicron," said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

The variant was identified only on November 24, and there are still many unknowns. While investigations continue, the WHO is recommending the nations take "a risk-based and scientific approach and put in place measures which can limit its possible spread" and to "ensure mitigation plans are in place" to maintain essential health services.

As research continues, the WHO has praised South Africa and Botswana for quickly sharing information about the new strain so that governments could be prepared with extra precautions.

“The speed and transparency of the South African and Botswana governments in informing the world of the new variant is to be commended. WHO stands with African countries which had the courage to boldly share life-saving public health information, helping protect the world against the spread of COVID-19," said Dr Moeti.

Source: lonelyplanet