Countries slam borders closed to Christmas travellers as Omicron spreads

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Japan has joined Israel and Morocco in banning foreign visitors as the highly mutated Omicron variant spreads around the world.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the country's border closure will come into effect on Tuesday, just weeks after restrictions were eased.

Passengers wearing protective face masks, amid the coronavirus disease pandemic, walk at the Haneda airport, in Tokyo, Japan June 13, 2021. Source: Reuters
Japan has announced a ban on all foreign visitors to the country. Source: Reuters

It comes after Israel and Morocco also announced blanket bans to foreigners.

Among the most drastic of growing travel rules, even Moroccan residents will not be permitted to enter the country for weeks from Monday, with all incoming and outgoing flights cancelled over the period.

Other places, such as the United States, Britain, Canada and the European Union have also tightened border controls to slow the spread but at this stage have only imposed bans on travellers from southern Africa.

Travellers exit the coronavirus disease pandemic testing area at Ben Gurion International Airport as Israel imposes new restrictions near Tel Aviv, Israel November 28, 2021. Source: Reuters
Many countries have moved to tighten border controls after the new Omicron variant was detected in a number of nations. Source: Reuters

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has also not ruled out making further changes to travel restrictions after the first known cases of the strain were detected in Australia.

“We will not hesitate to take additional steps if the medical evidence is that more are required,” he said.

On Saturday, Mr Hunt swiftly moved to implement five additional precautionary measures including introducing a period of time in quarantine for Australians who have travelled to South Africa.

Little known about new variant of concern 

The highly mutated strain, known as B.1.1.529, was dubbed Omicron by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday amid growing global alarm — joining the prevalent and deadly Delta variant under the same Greek Alphabet naming system.

It’s still not known whether the new variant of concern is more contagious, more likely to cause serious illness or more able to evade the protection of vaccines.

Omicron has been detected in several places from Hong Kong to Europe to North America.

The Netherlands reported 13 infections on Sunday, and Canada and Australia found five.

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