Japan announced that it would suspend the entry of all foreign visitors. At the same time, new cases of this new form, identified by researchers in South Africa, have been reported in Hong Kong, Australia and Portugal.
Portuguese authorities are investigating whether some of the cases reported there are the first cases of local spread outside southern Africa. As cases of this new form appear all over the world, it is discovered that it is almost impossible to confine it to one place in a globalized world. Nevertheless, many countries are making such efforts. By the way, the World Health Organization has said that the closure of borders often has limited effect, but it can wreak havoc on lives and livelihoods.
Some argue that such restrictions may still provide time to analyze the redesign. Little is known about this new form, including whether it is more contagious, whether it is more likely to cause serious disease, or whether it is more capable of neutralizing the protective shield of vaccines.
While the initial global response to COVID-19 was criticized as slow and haphazard, the response to the redesign has been quick.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen praised South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, saying: “This time the world has shown it is learning.” South Africa’s analytical work and transparency and sharing of its results were essential to a swift global response. There is no doubt that it saved many lives.
The WHO has praised South Africa and Botswana for quickly alerting the world to the new pattern. Many have cautioned that they should not be penalized for their speed, especially because it will never be known when or where the redesign first appeared.
Nevertheless, von der Leyen called on the 27-nation European Union to immediately ban flights from seven southern African countries.
Cases have already been reported in Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands. Earlier, the Portuguese authorities had identified 13 cases of omicron among team members of the Belenenses professional football club.
Officials said one member had recently traveled to South Africa. Its game against Benfica over the weekend had to be abandoned at half-time due to a lack of players.
Segregation also became an issue when the Netherlands Military Police had to arrest a husband and wife. Both had left the hotel where they were kept after being found infected. They had boarded a plane to Spain.
Spokesperson Petra Faber said, “Separation is not compulsory, but we believe that people will act responsibly.”
Taking no risk, Japan announced on Monday that it would ban the entry of all foreign travelers from around the world in the wake of the threat of a new form of the coronavirus, Omicron. With this, Japan has joined the list of countries that have tightened travel restrictions in view of the worldwide confirmed cases of Omicron infection. Omicron has not yet been reported in Japan.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the announcement would take effect from Tuesday. The announcement means Japan will restore controls on the movement of people across its border, which were eased earlier this month for short-term business travelers, foreign students and workers.
Israel decided to block the entry of foreigners and Morocco said it would suspend all incoming flights for two weeks starting Monday.
Despite global concern, scientists cautioned that it is still unclear whether the Omicron form is more dangerous than other forms, which have killed more than five million people.
In some parts of the world, officials are moving in the opposite direction. In Malaysia, officials proceeded to partially reopen a bridge connecting Singapore. At the same time, New Zealand announced that it would continue to plan to reopen the months-long lockdown internally. However, it is also restricting travel from nine southern African countries.
Prime Minister J. Ardern said she did not anticipate any further restrictions, and that bars, restaurants and gyms in Auckland could reopen late Thursday. This may end the corona virus lockdown that started in August.
Meanwhile, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health in the US, said that there is no data yet to suggest that the new variant causes more severe disease than the previous COVID-19 variant.
Collins said everyone should intensify their efforts to use the measures already in place in the world, including immunizations, booster doses and wearing masks.
AP Amit Shahid