June 27, 2022

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New “Omigron” variant: Restrictions on travelers returning from South Africa

Faced with the rapid spread of a brand new variant in South Africa, described by the WHO as “worrying”, the Canadian government has followed suit with many countries around the world, closing its borders to foreigners residing in the seven southern regions. African countries. Canadian citizens and permanent residents returning from the region must be subjected to re-drug testing and isolation upon their return.

“With extreme caution”, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos announced on Friday that the border would be closed immediately to any foreigners staying in South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Lesotho for two weeks or more. , Eswatini or Namibia.

Those who have been to Canada for the past two weeks should now be subjected to self-isolation, tested by Covit-19, and kept in solitary confinement until they test negative. Minister Douglas promised that on average only 50 passengers a day would come from the region.

For now, b.1.1.529 – Named “Omicron” by the World Health Organization – Not found in Canada or on travelers to the country recently.

More than 9,000 visitors from South Africa have entered Canada since June.

Nevertheless, Canadians and permanent residents who wish to return to South Africa, whether vaccinated or not, will not be protected. So once they arrive in Canada they have to undergo a molecular screening test, wait for the result at a hotel designated by the federal government, and if their test turns out to be negative, complete 14 days of isolation at home. They should undergo a second screening test on the 10th day of their return.

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Due to the lack of direct flights between South Africa and Canada, Canadian citizens must be checked in before traveling to Canada.

The WHO warns that the new Omigron variant poses an “increased risk” of re-infection compared to other types it monitors. WHO scientists and vaccine manufacturers will try to evaluate the effectiveness of vaccines against the new variant over the next few days and weeks.

Explosion of cases

South Africa, which recorded an average of only 200 new COVID-19 cases a day for weeks, had more than 2,400 as of Thursday. It is estimated that 90% of the 1,000 new cases detected by PCR tests on Wednesday in the most populous province of South Africa, including the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria, are new variants.

Less than 24% of South Africa’s population has been adequately vaccinated against COVID-19.

Cases of omigran variation have also been reported in Belgium, Israel, Botswana and Hong Kong. He was specifically diagnosed after being isolated in a hotel room opposite a Canadian South African in Hong Kong.

Ottawa has not ruled out imposing its new border controls on other countries. But so far, there is no other report that the community of this variation has spread.

Transport Minister Omar Alcabra reminded that all passengers, regardless of their country and vaccination status, must present a negative molecular test result before returning to the country. Those who have not been vaccinated should also be isolated upon arrival.

Countries The European Union and the United States announced on Friday that they would suspend all flights From South Africa and its six neighbors (similar to Canada, except Namibia). The UK, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Singapore have done the same.

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South Africa’s Health Minister Joe Pahla condemned the reactions on Friday, calling them “unnecessary.”

Omicron worries at home

Calls to follow in the footsteps of the Ottawa international community grew rapidly on Friday.

Francois Legalt He said he was “very worried”. “We can not take this opportunity to come from South Africa and return to Quebec,” he said in Montreal. “We have confirmed that it is already in Belgium. We have asked the federal government to ban flights to South Africa,” he said.

There was a similar request from the Ontario and Alberta Premiers. Doug Ford argued in the morning that “the mistakes that allowed the alpha and delta types to enter this country should not be repeated”. Jason Kenny, meanwhile, joked on Twitter that “Canada cannot repeat the mistake of its open border policy at the beginning of this global epidemic.”

In the federal parliament, the Federal Conservative Party and the Black Quebecois It also demanded that flights from South Africa be stopped.

With Franசois Carabin

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