(MENAFN- Bangladesh Monitor) Dhaka: The United States of America will restrict travel from South Africa and seven other southern African countries in an effort to prevent the spread of a new coronavirus variant. From November 29, only US citizens and residents will be allowed to travel from the region.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) earlier declared the new variant to be 'of concern', naming it Omicron.
US officials said flights from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be blocked. The ban will come into effect on November 29.
In a statement, President Joe Biden called the move a 'precautionary measure' taken until more is known about the variant.
The Omicron variant was first reported to the WHO from South Africa on November 24, and has since been identified in other countries.
South Africa's health ministry has criticised the rush to impose new travel restrictions, calling them 'draconian', and contrary to WHO guidance.
Scientists say they still have much to learn about the virus's new mutations, and the WHO has said it will take a few weeks to understand the impact of the new variant, as experts work to determine how transmissible it is.
The WHO on November 26 said preliminary evidence suggested the new variant carried a higher risk of reinfection than other variants.
Scientists have said it is the most heavily mutated version yet, which means Covid vaccines, which were designed using the original strain from Wuhan, China, may not be as effective.
The WHO says so far fewer than 100 sample sequences have been reported. Cases have mainly been confirmed in South Africa, but have also been detected in Hong Kong, Israel, Botswana and Belgium.
Most of the cases in South Africa have been from its most populated province, Gauteng, of which Johannesburg is the capital city.
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