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Cairo bans flights from south African states as Belgium finds covid case in traveller returning from Egypt

This picture taken on June 20, 2020 shows a view of an EgyptAir Airbus A320neo aircraft on the tarmac [KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images]
View of an EgyptAir Airbus A320neo aircraft on the tarmac on 20 June 2021 [KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images]

Egypt has banned flights from south African countries after the first case of the new coronavirus variant was detected in Belgium in a traveller returning from Egypt via Turkey.

The B.1.1.529 variant was first discovered in South Africa and several European countries have already imposed travel restrictions on the African country and its neighbours.

Denmark, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands have all detected cases of the new variant.

Last week Israel detected a new case of the variant and has now placed 50 African countries, including Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, on its red list.

Israel announced that from midnight last night it will ban non-Israelis from entering the country for 14 days, becoming the first country to ban entry to foreigners.

Morocco has also banned all inbound flights for two weeks and Saudi Arabia has suspended flights to and from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Eswatini.

READ: Saudi, Bahrain, Sudan ban flights from African countries over COVID variant

The UAE, Qatar, Oman, Jordan and Bahrain have also announced they will suspend the entry of travellers from several southern African countries.

Kuwait has suspended flights from nine African countries

Omricon has been labelled a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organisation, who has said "preliminary evidence suggests and increased risk of infection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs."

However, WHO has urged on the side of caution and warned against travel bans since it will take several weeks to understand the new variant.

"With the Omricon variant now detected in several regions of the world, putting in place travel bans that target Africa attacks global solidarity," WHO regional director general Matshidiso Moeti.

"Travel restrictions may play a role in slightly reducing the spread of COVID-19 but place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods," the WHO said in a statement.

The South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on countries to "urgently" reverse "scientifically unjustified" travel bans linked to Omricon saying that "the prohibition of travel is not informed by science."

"The only thing the prohibition on travel will do is further damage the economies of the affected countries and undermine their ability to respond to, and recover from, the pandemic."

AfricaBelgiumCoronavirusEgyptEurope & RussiaNews
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