By Alexandra Valencia
QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuador will impose entry restrictions on travelers flying from or via a number of African countries and will request vaccine certificates from those arriving from other countries due to the new Omicron strain of coronavirus, President Guillermo Lasso said on Monday.
With the announcement Ecuador joins other countries across the globe in restricting travel in response to the Omicron strain, which carries a very high risk of increased infection, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
"For all of us in Ecuador this variant should be seen as a wake-up call to make a greater effort against the pandemic," Lasso said in a televised broadcast where he called on citizens to get vaccinated.
"It's time to renew our fight against COVID-19," he said.
The new measures will come into effect from Dec. 1.
Anyone who has traveled from or through South Africa - where the Omicron strain was first detected - Botswana, Egypt, Mozambique, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Eswatini and Namibia will not be allowed to enter the country, Ecuador's government said.
Travelers from the rest of the world will need to present a complete vaccination certificate and a PCR test taken within the last 72 hours to enter the Andean country, Lasso added.
Children aged between two and 16 years must also present a negatcive COVID-19 test on their arrival.
Concerns about the new strain of coronavirus come amid a recent decision by Ecuador to reopen its border with Colombia from Wednesday, prompting the government to adopt a phased approach to the reopening.
"The first phase concerns the international transport of goods, which will comply with biosafety protocols according to the agreements between the transport ministries of the two countries," Lasso said.
The government hopes to vaccinate 85% of its population by December to reach herd immunity and Lasso said the country has sufficient vaccine doses to meet that target.
(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Sephen Coates)