Photo used for illustrative purpose.
Gulf Today, Staff Reporter
The UAE has suspended entry for travellers from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Mozambique starting from Monday (Nov.29) due to concerns about a new variant of the COVID-19 virus, the state news agency reported on Friday.
This includes suspending the entry of travellers who were in these countries 14 days before coming to the UAE. Flight operations will continue to transport passengers from the UAE to these seven countries.
The General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) affirmed that UAE nationals, diplomatic missions, official delegations between UAE and the seven countries and golden residence holders are excluded from this decision.
The excluded category should present a negative COVID-19 test obtained within 48 hours of departure and a Rapid-PCR test at the airport within six hours of the departure and another PCR test at the airport when arriving to UAE.
A 10-day quarantine and a PCR test on the ninth day of entering the country is required for UAE nationals, diplomatic missions and golden residence holders. However, official delegations are required to quarantine at the airport until the test result is received for them to continue their mission in UAE without 10-day quarantine.
The authority also affirmed that it is required for those coming from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique through other countries to stay in those countries for at least 14 days before being allowed to enter the UAE.
UAE citizens are prohibited from travelling to South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique except for the country's emergency treatment cases, official delegations, and scholarships.
The authority called on all travellers affected by the decision to follow up and communicate with the airlines to amend and schedule their flights and to ensure their safe return to their final destinations without any delay or other obligations.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan and Morocco also suspend flights from African nations
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has also suspended flights to and from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Eswatini due to concerns related to the spread of COVID-19, the SPA reported.
The Saudi ban comprises flights to and from those countries, the official Saudi Press Agency said, quoting an interior ministry official.
Bahrain has banned entry to travellers from South Africa and five southern African nations due to concerns related to the spread of COVID-19, the state news agency BNA reported on Friday.
The decision excluded Bahraini citizens and those with Bahraini residency visa holders, it said.
Jordan's interior ministry, acting on recommendations from the health ministry, also announced a ban for non-Jordanian travellers coming from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Eswatini.
The North African kingdom of Morocco banned travellers from those same countries due to fears over the new coronavirus variant detected in South Africa.
A slew of nations, including the United States and European countries, have announced similar bans, sparking criticism from South Africa. "We believe that some of the reactions have been unjustified," South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla told reporters.
The UN's World Health Organisation on Friday declared the recently discovered B.1.1.529 strain of Covid-19 to be a variant of concern, renaming it Omicron.
The variant has been blamed for a surge in fresh cases in South Africa, but has already cropped up in Hong Kong, Belgium, Israel and Botswana.
The outbound flights from Pakistan to the UAE have been suspended since May 12 after the UAE announced suspension of entry for travellers from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka as part of the COVID-19 precautionary measures.
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The latest phase of these repatriation flights, known as the "Vande Bharat Mission," began on March 1 and will last till March 28. Slightly more than 1,350 international flights are scheduled to be operated from 28 countries in this phase, enabling an estimated 260,000 Indians to travel home.
In a statement by the airline on Thursday, flights can be booked on emirates website or via travel agents, Emirates sales office and contact centre. Passengers will be required to comply with all requirements of the destination country.
The Ministry’s statement further said that the UAE reserves the right to respond to these terrorist attacks and criminal escalation, describing them as crimes committed in flagrant violation of international law.
"Unfortunately, our initial reports show that 22 people, including women and children, have been killed and four others injured," said Baz Mohammad Sarwari, the director of Information and Culture of the Badghis provincial administration.
"Since it was tried on patients with different variants of COVID-19, we expect it to be effective on Omicron as on other variants," Professor Iqbal Chaudhry, director of the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Science (ICCBS) where trials were conducted, told reporters.
The unique structure of Emirates Draw distinguishes it from other draws in that the grand prize remains at Dhs100 million until a single person or a group of people match all 7 numbers at which point the grand prize resets to Dhs77,777,77; a significant amount in its own right.