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ARGENTINA | 03-12-2021 23:22

Travel curbs reimposed across globe over Omicron fears

Argentina orders arrivals from Africa to undertake 10-day quarantine, following host of other nations; Authorities “pre-emptively” isolate 300 passengers on cruise ship after ‘false positive’ test result.

Global fears over the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 continue to sweep the world, with Argentina joining a host of countries in introducing new restrictions in a bid to curb the virus.

The government on Monday imposed a mandatory 10-day quarantine period for everyone arriving in the country from Africa, where the strain was first located.

All individuals who "arrive from or have been in the African continent or in the affected areas defined by the national health authority in the last FOURTEEN (14) days prior to their entry into the country" will have to undergo a mandatory 10-day period of isolation, read a notice in the Official Gazette.

As well as a negative PCR test result taken 72 hours prior to departure, all arrivals to Argentina will be required to take another Covid-19 test at their entry point and take a third and final test upon completion of the mandatory isolation period, the national government said.

At the tail end of last week, the government postponed the planned resumption of direct flights to and from African countries until mid-December. 

Escalating the fears, a positive test result from a passenger from a cruise ship docked in Buenos Aires this week prompted Argentine authorities to isolate the vessel and everyone onboard as a precautionary measure.

The Bahamas-flagged cruiser MS Hamburg, with 326 passengers and crew onboard in total, had arrived at the capital from Cape Verde, prompting concerns over the potential spread of the Omicron variant and action from the Health Ministry, which ordered the boat out to sea.

A second test on the crew-member who had tested positive, however, came back negative.

To date, Argentina has not recorded a case of the Omicron variant, though neighbouring Brazil had registered three in travellers who recently visited South Africa and Ethiopia. The trio all travelled through Guarulhos Airport in São Paulo.

The discovery of the new Omicron variant, first reported to the World Health Organisation by South Africa on November 24, has spread worldwide rapidly. A growing list of countries have already imposed travel curbs on southern Africa, including key travel hub Qatar, the United States, Britain, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Netherlands. 

On Monday, Angola became the first southern African country to suspend all flights from its regional neighbours Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa.

The variant's detection and spread represent a fresh challenge to global efforts to battle the pandemic, with several nations already reimposing restrictions many had hoped were a thing of the past.

The EU health agency warned this week that the strain could cause more than half of Europe's Covid cases in the "next few months."

In Berlin, outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that large parts of public life would be shut off to people who have not been vaccinated or have not recovered from Covid-19, in an attempt to clamp down on surging infection rates fuelled by the Delta variant. It is not yet clear when the latest measures will go into effect.

In the United States, US President Joe Biden urged political opponents to put aside their differences and back his winter plan against Covid, with new testing requirements for travellers and a surge in vaccination efforts.

His speech came as the United States confirmed eight total Omicron cases -- at least one involving a person with no recent international travel history, signalling the strain is already circulating inside the country.

 

– TIMES/AFP/NA

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