Japan announced today, Monday, the closure of its borders to all new foreign arrivals, due to concerns over Omicron, to join a growing list of countries seeking to immunize themselves from the new mutated Corona virus, which contains multiple copies.
Group of Seven health ministers are expected to hold an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the new mutator discovered for the first time. in South Africa and to understand the challenge it poses to efforts to combat the epidemic.
The Japanese government was the latest country to re-impose stringent border controls that was hoped to be a chapter in the past, barring all new foreign arrivals just weeks after announcing it would finally allow some visa holders to enter the country.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said his country is “in a stronger position than others in the face of the Omicron mutant “, noting that the population voluntarily puts on masks and adheres to all prevention rules.
The Philippines also announced that it will temporarily suspend plans to allow fully vaccinated tourists to enter, in an effort to prevent the spread of the mutant. in a country in which the majority of the population is not yet vaccinated.
Manila had hoped to revive its battered economy by allowing vaccinated tourists to enter from Wednesday.
The mutant also raises doubts in Australia, which was cautiously lifting restrictions, and the government has now announced it is reconsidering its previous decision to ease travel restrictions.
But Prime Minister Scott Morrison appeared reluctant to re-impose the stiff blockade measures imposed at the start of questyear, after three people from South Africa were confirmed to have Omicron.
“Not only must we learn to live with Covid, but we must also learn to live with its variants,” he said.
“race against time”
There is uncertainty about Omicron’s transmission rate and resistance to existing vaccines.
And the prestigious “Bambino Gesso” hospital in Rome released the first “photo” showing the new mutant on Sunday and confirmed that it contains many more copies than those of the Delta, but specified that this does not necessarily mean that it is more dangerous.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Sunday that governments are racing a “race against time” to understand the mutation, adding that vaccine manufacturers need two to three weeks “to get a complete picture of the type. of mutations “present in Omicron. .
A growing number of countries have imposed travel restrictions on southern Africa, including Qatar, the United States, Great Britain, Brazil, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Netherlands.
As for Israel, it announced even stricter restrictions, closing its borders to all foreign travelers, just four weeks after reopening it to tourists after a lengthy closure. Morocco also announced the suspension of all passenger flights in I arrive for a period of two weeks.
Angola was the first southern African country to suspend flights from its neighbors in the region, including Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa.
South Africa protested strongly against the new restrictions, so much so that its Ministry of Foreign Affairs considered it a “punishment” for being the first party to identify the mutant that is currently being discovered. in various countries around the world, from the Netherlands to Great Britain, Canada and Hong Kong.
On Sunday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa called on countries around the world to lift travel restrictions before they “cause further damage to our economies”.
For his part, the President of Malawi Lazarus Shakwera has accused Western countries of “afrofobia” for the closure of the borders.
The World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, also urged countries around the world to follow the science rather than impose a travel ban to contain the new mutation.
“With Omicron detected in many regions of the world, a travel ban against Africa is an attack on global solidarity, “he said.
But in a sign of some optimism, Singapore and Malaysia have eased travel restrictions on their land borders, which are among the busiest in the world, almost two years after they were imposed.
From Monday, citizens vaccinated with a permanent residence visa or work permit will be able to cross the one kilometer border between the two countries without having to undergo quarantine.
Despite the new threat, tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Austria to protest the government’s recent obligation to vaccinate the population, in a precedent in the countries of the European Union.
Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said the government’s decision represents a “small intervention” compared to the alternative scenario in a country that has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe.
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