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EU Countries Tighten Travel Restrictions As Omicron Variant Is Detected in Several Member States

Not long after EU member states opened their borders and began imposing more relaxed restrictions on COVID-19, many were forced to re-impose entry measures due to the discovery of the new B.1.1.529 variant, also known as Omicron.

The decision by member states to tighten travel rules follows a recommendation by the European Union Commission. With a statement on the novel coronavirus variant, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen urged all EU member states to stop travel to and from countries affected by the new variant.

The World Health Organization (WHO) revealed the discovery of the first infection with the new variant, called Omicron, on November 9.

Because the new variant has a greater number of mutations than the delta variant and higher transmissibility, it remains unclear whether current COVID-19 vaccines will be effective against omicron. For this reason, every country tries to control the movement of its citizens as well as the entry of other citizens.

The new COVID-19 variant was revealed to contain about 50 mutations, which is twice the number of mutations found in the delta variant.

Therefore, in order to prevent the further spread of the new variant and protect the public, EU countries have decided to take different approaches, which mainly consist of stricter entry restrictions.

Belgium, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands reveal variable Omicron cases

Belgium was the first member country to report a case of the Omicron variant. The authorities revealed that the injured had previously visited Egypt.

Belgian public health doctor Marc van Ranst wrote: “In Belgium, one sample has been confirmed as the new variant B.1.1.529 (in a traveler returning from Egypt (11/11; first symptoms on 22/11)” on his official account on Twitter.

Shortly after the announcement of the first case of Omicron within the European Union, the Ministry of Health in Bavaria reported that the German state had also confirmed two cases infected with the new variant.

German authorities revealed that the infected entered Germany on November 24, before any restrictions were imposed on these areas.

Last week, no restrictions were imposed on the affected areas now. However, once the new variant began spreading around the world, Germany classified the eight countries as virus variable regions.

>> Germany classifies 8 countries as virus changing regions, removes 7 countries from high risk list

“Several mutations typical of Omicron were found last night on a returnee from South Africa. So there is a high degree of suspicion that the person has been quarantined at home. The full sequencing is still pending at the time,” Germany’s Minister of State for Social Affairs and Integration wrote on Twitter. Present”.

For Italy, the country’s National Institute of Health revealed the discovery of the first case of Omicron in Milan. The infected person returned from Mozambique.

Moreover, Dutch authorities reported 13 cases of the Omicron variant on Sunday. The cases were detected during a test run at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.

In response to cases of the Omicron variant, Dutch health authorities have called on everyone who has returned from South Africa to get tested as soon as possible.

Denmark imposes a ban on entry to and from South Africa

Following a recommendation from the committee, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs advised on November 26 that all should refrain from travel to Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

“The new travel advice was introduced as a result of a new type of infection (B.1.1.529), which is of concern, has been detected in several countries in South Africa,” the ministry’s statement read.

Moreover, the same has imposed the mandatory quarantine requirement for all those who have resided in one of the above-mentioned countries in the past 10 days. All people entering Denmark after staying in any of the seven countries will be required to stay isolated for ten days.

However, it has been emphasized that the quarantine period can be shortened if two negative COVID-19 test results are submitted. The first test should be done on the fourth day, and the second test should be done on the sixth day, reports.

Slovenia and Hungary introduce quarantine requirements for those traveling from areas affected by Omicron

The National Institute of Public Health of Slovenia revealed that the country has not identified any cases of the new coronavirus so far.

However, in order to keep the epidemiological situation under control, the Norwegian authorities have advised that no one should make a trip to South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Similar to Denmark, the Slovenian authorities have announced that all people who have resided in one of these areas, as well as citizens of the affected countries, are subject to the mandatory 10-day quarantine requirement, without the possibility of shortening it.

Regardless of the quarantine rules, everyone is required to get tested for COVID-19 after the quarantine period is over.

People who have stayed in endangered areas for 14 days before decree number 113 comes into force must be notified and then sent to home quarantine for ten days. They are also considered unable to terminate quarantine prematurely and must undergo a PCR test after ten days,” the statement from the Slovenian National Institute of Public Health said.

Likewise, Hungary has also imposed bans and restrictions on entry for all travelers from the affected areas.

A decree published by the Hungarian authorities made it clear that all those who remained in the affected areas must remain isolated for 14 days. This requirement applies to everyone, even those who submit a negative PCR test upon entry.

France, Lithuania, Finland and the Czech Republic restrict entry to 7 countries in South Africa

Although the Omicron variant has already been detected in the majority of EU/Schengen area countries, all territories still decide to introduce entry restrictions aimed at preventing further spread of the new variant.

France was one of the first countries to suspend all flights from the seven African nations. At the same time, it was announced that all who were in one of the seven regions would be required to follow strict entry rules.

Similarly, on November 29, Lithuania banned travel to and from affected areas as well as imposing double testing and quarantine requirements on returning people.

Apart from the two countries mentioned above, Finland has also decided to restrict entry to all travelers from South Africa. It has been emphasized that the country will not allow anyone, including fully vaccinated travelers, to enter Finland. Currently only Finnish citizens are allowed to return to the country.

In addition, immediately after the authorities of the Czech Republic decided to restrict travel from the territory of South Africa, the country discovered its first case of infection. The infected person was a woman who is now hospitalized and being monitored.

In order to prevent the virus from spreading within the country, just like other member states, the Czech Republic has also imposed entry rules for all travelers from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique.

“We know from experience how quickly the virus can spread. So we are introducing measures that reduce the chance of introducing this mutation in the Czech Republic. We are monitoring the situation closely, and we are ready to respond appropriately,” said the Minister of Health of the Czech Republic, Adam Wojciech. my work”.

Iceland, Malta and Poland have also imposed restrictions on all types of movement due to the COVID-19 variant Omicron.

Moreover, Spain also detected its first case of Omicron, indicating that it is only a matter of time before the new variant reaches every country.

With the exception of EU/Schengen area countries, UK, Australia, USA and Canada have also imposed travel restrictions against South African countries. To date, Canada has confirmed six cases of the Omicron variant.

Previously, the EU Commission suggested that, except for allowing unrestricted entry for travelers vaccinated with a European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved vaccine, member states should also allow entry for those vaccinated with a WHO approved vaccine.

However, given the current situation of COVID-19 and the discovery of the new variant, it remains unclear whether EU countries will allow unrestricted entry anytime soon for travelers from third countries.

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