Countries step up Covid travel restrictions as Omicron fears spread

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Potentially more contagious than earlier strains, the Omicron Covid-19 variant first identified in South Africa has spread to at the minimum 12 other countries, prompting several nations to step up containment measures. Follow FRANCE 24 for live updates.

It could take “days to several weeks” to understand the level of severity of the variant, warned the World Health Organisation (WHO), which flagged Omicron as a “variant of concern”.

The Omicron variant has been found in Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, and the Netherlands.

8am Paris time: Japan bars foreigners

Japan said it will shut its borders to foreigners to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant, joining Israel in imposing some of the strictest border controls since the variant’s discovery in South Africa.

Japan will bar entry to foreigners from midnight on Monday, and Japanese returnees from a number of stated nations will have to quarantine in designated facilities, chief Minister Fumio Kishida told journalists.

“These are permanent, exceptional measures that we are taking for safety’s sake until there is clearer information about the Omicron variant,” Kishida continued.

“I’m prepared to bear all criticism from those saying the Kishida administration is being too careful.”

This comes just a few weeks after Kishida’s new government eased quarantine measures on foreign business travellers to help raise the economy.

>> Read more: Japan to reinstate ban on foreign visitors

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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