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Canada introduces ban on travel from southern Africa over Omicron variant

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·2 min read
Canada introduces ban on travel from southern Africa over Omicron variant
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The federal government is introducing new restrictions on some travel from southern Africa amid concerns of a new COVID-19 variant of concern known as Omicron. 

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced several new restrictions at a press conference on Friday in response to the discovery of the new COVID-19 variant, which the World Health Organization designated a variant of concern on Friday. 

The government said it will ban the entry of foreign nationals who have travelled through seven countries in southern Africa, including Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, in the last 14 days. Those who have already arrived in Canada from these countries in the last two weeks will have to quarantine, get tested for COVID-19 and stay in isolation until they receive a negative test. 

Canadians and permanent residents with a right of entry into Canada who are returning from southern Africa will have to submit to a COVID-19 test upon arrival and then quarantine in a government-approved hotel until the results are known. If the test is negative, travellers will be able to quarantine at home until they provide a second negative test on Day 10. 

"It may seem like an overreaction from some perspectives, but it's really following an abundance of caution principle," Duclos said on Friday.

"We really want to make sure that we do all we can to protect the health and safety of Canadians."

There are currently no direct flights to Canada from the region. As a result, the government will require travellers provide a negative test in the last transit country before flying back to Canada.  

Global Affairs Canada will also issue a travel advisory asking all Canadians not to travel to southern Africa. 

"We will continue to monitor the data that we're receiving from around the world and the data that we're receiving from our testing and the border and will take additional precautionary measures if necessary," Alghabra said. 

"If we need to adjust this list of countries based on the information that we have and based on the doctor's advice that we receive, we will do so." 

Canada's travel ban comes shortly after the European Union and United Kingdom imposed restrictions on travel from southern African countries. 

The World Health Organization said Friday that the variant, which was first reported from South Africa on Nov. 24, has "a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning." 

Concerns about Omicron roiled global markets on Friday. Airline companies saw shares decline on Friday, with Air Canada's stock (AC.TO) dropping nearly 11 per cent.

Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.

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