The European Union and other major destinations, including the United States and Canada, have moved to block flights from African countries following the discovery of the Omicron variant, echoing previous emergency responses that triggered a global freeze on travel.
Two flights from South Africa, one from Cape Town and one from Johannesburg, landed Friday late morning local time at Schiphol, an airport spokesman said. The passengers had to remain on board the flight while a separate, secure location in the airport was being located and are waiting to be tested, he said.
The spokesman estimated the two flights were carrying between 400 and 600 passengers between them. Given the large number of travelers involved, «it will take time to test everyone,» he said.
The new strain has so far been detected in South Africa, Botswana, and in two travelers quarantining in Hong Kong. A case has also been reported in Belgium.
European Union states have agreed to introduce temporary restrictions on all travel into the EU from southern Africa over the new Covid-19 variant, the bloc said Friday. The countries concerned are Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, EU Commission spokesman Eric Mamer said.
Slovenia, which holds the revolving presidency of the European Council, called upon member states to test and quarantine all incoming passengers, it said on Twitter.
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden will restrict travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi starting Monday, administration officials told CNN.
Canada will be «banning the entry of foreign nationals… that have traveled through southern Africa in the last 14 days,» due to the Omicron variant, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos told a press conference on Friday.
Anyone who has traveled through southern Africa in the last 14 days should get a Covid-19 test and quarantine until they get a negative test result, said Duclos. The countries include South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Eswatini, he said.
«Canadians and permanent residents and those with a right of entry into Canada will be tested on arrival, [and] they will quarantine until they get the result of a negative test,» according to Duclos.
The United Kingdom, Japan, Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Jordan are also among those imposing restrictions on flights and travelers from southern African nations in light of the new variant.
The World Health Organization announced Friday it had designated the newly identified variant, B.1.1.529, as a variant of concern, named Omicron.
While only dozens of cases have been identified so far, news of the variant, which has around double the amount of mutations as the Delta variant, is already sparking fears around the world.
On Friday, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) warned against travel bans, stressing such restrictions are «not a long-term solution» when it comes to…
Read More: Travel doors slam shut as new Covid variant triggers alarm