Travel restrictions imposed amid fears of new 'Omicron' Covid variant

Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs signalled November 26 that Latvia would speedily join the list of countries imposing restrictions on entry for individuals from South Africa and other southern African countries over fears of  potentially deadly new Covid-19 variant that has emerged in the region.

 

"A decision on travel restrictions will be made soon. In the meantime, I am already asking those who had planned a trip / business trip to South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Eswatini [still often known as Swaziland in the English-speaking world], Lesotho, Botswana, Mozambique to cancel them," he wrote on social media in response to a tweet from Health Minister Daniels Pavļuts, who noted concerns about the mutated B.1.1.529 variant. 

Shortly afterwards the Foreign Ministry issued an official alert confirming the travel advice, saying: "In connection with the discovery of a new, potentially dangerous strain of the Covid-19 virus that has spread to several countries in southern Africa, the Foreign Ministry strongly warns travelers not to visit Africa, especially South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini and Zimbabwe".

Though currently only a small number of cases of the new variant have been recorded, there are fears that its large number of mutations may allow it to evade some of the protections offered by vaccines, and it is also potentially highly transmissible, though research into it is ongoing. The World Health Organization made it an official 'Variant of Concern' at a meeting Friday and dubbed it 'Omicron'.

Later on Friday, Rinkēvičs confirmed the restrictions on entry from eight sub-Saharan African countries, with Malawi added to the previously-mentioned seven.

 

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