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A look at which countries have implemented travel bans amid the emergence of the Omicron COVID-19 variant

A traveler on the last flight to Morocco before flights were suspended, arrived at a terminal in Rabat airport, Morocco, on Monday.Mosa'ab Elshamy/Associated Press

The identification of a new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, has prompted a number of nations to restrict travel in an effort to buy time to increase vaccination rates amid the spread of the new strain.

While experts caution that it will take time to gather and analyze data on Omicron to better understand its impact — including its transmissibility and whether vaccines will be effective against it — the emergence of the variant has sparked a fresh wave of travel bans and other restrictions nearly two years into the coronavirus pandemic.

The World Health Organization on Friday labeled Omicron, first discovered in South Africa, a “variant of concern,” noting that early evidence suggests it presents an increased risk of reinfection and that it has been detected at faster rates than previous COVID-19 surges. On Monday, the WHO said Omicron presents “very high” risks globally, and on Tuesday denounced the implementation of travel bans, saying they “will not prevent the international spread, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods.”

Multiple experts have questioned the effectiveness of travel bans, arguing they had come too late to stop the spread of new variants. The emergence of the variant in South Africa has also opened up further criticism over the lack of availability of vaccines in poorer countries, which scientists argue allows the virus to mutate further, even as global vaccine distribution efforts lag and richer countries roll out booster campaigns.

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“The notion of having a global map of where the variants are and aren’t is just fantasy,” Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University, told The New York Times. “I don’t think the travel bans really have much of an impact, other than answering the political pressures that inevitably arise when a new variant emerges.”

During an address to the country Monday about the new variant, President Biden said that while the United States’ travel restrictions won’t prevent the spread of Omicron, it will slow it and provide the US with “time to take more actions to move quicker to make sure people understand: You have to get your vaccine, you have to get the shot, you have get the booster.”

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The African Union Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it “strongly discourages” travel bans for people from countries that have reported cases of Omicron, saying travel bans during the pandemic have “not yielded a meaningful outcome,” and instead urged the use of public health measures.

Here’s a look at some of the countries that have issued travel bans or restrictions so far amid the variant’s emergence:

The United States

Beginning Monday, the US restricted travel from South Africa and seven other countries in the region: Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.

The restrictions don’t apply to citizens, permanent residents, and certain other travelers, according to Biden’s order.

Biden, during Monday’s speech, defended the move to restrict travel from the countries, saying it was due to a “significant number of cases, unlike any other country or the few around South Africa, in the world.”

“We needed time to give people an opportunity to say ‘get that vaccination now,’ before it... it’s going to move around the world,” Biden said. “I think it’s almost inevitable there will be at some point that strain here in the United States.”

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The European Union

The EU on Friday introduced a temporary ban on air travel from the southern African countries of Botswana, Eswatini, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, and Lesotho.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said flights from the region “should be suspended until we have a clear understanding about the danger posed by this new variant, and travelers returning from these regions should respect quarantine rules.”

Israel

Israel barred all international travelers from the country for 14 days and mandated quarantine for all Israelis who arrive from abroad.

On Saturday, Israel said it had detected Omicron in a traveler who had returned from the south African country of Malawi, and it was investigating other suspected cases.

Britain

People who are not British or Irish citizens or permanent residents of England are barred from entering if in the last 10 days they have been to countries on the “red list,” which include South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, or Zimbabwe.

Japan

On Monday, Japan announced it would not allow foreign travelers to enter the country.

Morocco

Morocco on Sunday said it is blocking entry to all travelers — even Moroccan citizens — for two weeks, banning all incoming and outgoing flights.

Canada

The Canadian government announced that non-Canadian citizens who have been to South Africa, Eswatini, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Namibia within the last two weeks will not be allowed to enter Canada.

Australia

Australia has banned entry for non-citizens who have been to nine countries in southern Africa in the last two weeks.

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Brazil

On Friday, President Jair Bolsanaro’s chief of staff said Brazil would halt flights from six African countries: Botswana, Eswatini, Namibia, South Africa, Lesotho, and Zimbabwe.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong has barred travelers from South African, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Angola, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Zambia.

Egypt

Egypt has banned travelers from the African countries of Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, and Eswatini.

Kuwait

Officials in Kuwait have suspended flights from Malawi, South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zambia, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique.

Thailand

Thailand said it would ban the entry of those traveling from Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Namibia.

Singapore

People who are not citizens or permanent residents of Singapore and have been in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Botswana, in the last 14 days will not be allowed to enter the country.

Turkey

Turkey banned arrivals from five African countries: South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.

The United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates has suspended travel from seven African counties: Eswatini, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and Mozambique, according to the Emirates airline, which said it was issuing the restrictions on flights at the direction of the Dubai COVID-19 Command and Control Center.

Philippines

The Philippines has suspended travel from Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.

Jordan

People who are not citizens of Jordan will not be allowed to enter the country if they have been in South Africa, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Eswatini, Botswana, Mozambique, or Namibia in the last two weeks, CNN reported.

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Indonesia

Indonesia has banned travelers who in the last two weeks have been in Mozambique, South Africa, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Eswatini, or Nigeria.

Bahrain

People who are not citizens from Bahrain traveling from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, Malawi, Mozambique, Angola, and Zambia are barred from entering.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has suspended flights from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Madagascar, Angola, Seychelles, Mauritius, and the Comoros Islands.


Material from Globe wire services was used in this report.


Amanda Kaufman can be reached at amanda.kaufman@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandakauf1.