NEWS

Variant prompts emergency measures

Greece introduces strict rules on travel from southern Africa as world frets over Omicron

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In response to the emergence of the new Covid variant Omicron variant that carries an “extremely high number” of mutations, the Greek Health Ministry on Friday announced a new series of restrictions regarding travel originating from countries in southern Africa where it was first detected.

Following the recommendations of the health committee advising the government on the coronavirus, these measures apply as of 6 a.m. today and concern entry of travelers originating from Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Eswatini, Zambia and Malawi. The variant was first spotted in Botswana while other cases have been found in southern Africa. Moreover, its detection in Belgium yesterday prompted European countries to restrict travel to southern African countries.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called for an emergency brake to stop air travel from the region and for EU countries to act “very swiftly, decisively and united.” 

“All air travel to these countries should be suspended until we have a clear understanding about the danger posed about this new variant and travelers returning from these regions should respect strict quarantine rules,” she said.

According to the measures announced in Greece, all Greek and foreign nationals arriving from southern Africa are allowed entry to the country only for absolutely essential travel on the condition they have taken a molecular PCR test 72 hours prior, regardless of their vaccination status. In addition, a necessary condition for entry is the issuance of a permit by the local Greek embassy, consulate, or consular authorities of other countries which represent Greece in case there is no Greek diplomatic mission there.

Furthermore, upon entering Greece, they will undergo a rapid antigen test. They will then be restricted in quarantine hotels for 10 days and rechecked after the expiration of this period. The end of their quarantine is subject to a negative rapid antigen test.

Meanwhile, the number of intubated Covid-19 patients rose further to 630 Friday from 621 the previous day, according to Greek health authorities. 

New Covid-19 cases climbed to 6,602 versus 6,565 on Thursday, while fatalities from the pandemic rose to 17,779 after 86 more patients died in the previous 24 hours. That was higher than the 78 deaths recorded the day before.