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Everything You Need to Know About the Omicron Variant & the South Africa Travel Ban

A picture of South Africa, where the Omicron variant was found

Disclaimer: This article covers a developing story. It may change in the future to reflect new information.

A new variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, has recently been detected in Southern Africa. This new variant has been called Omicron. Omicron is a game-changer, especially if you were planning to travel in or out of Africa sometime soon.

Due to this new variant, many major travel destinations have decided to enforce stricter travel restrictions. In this article, we’ll go through some of them, to help you prepare. We’ll also share everything you need to know about South Africa’s travel restrictions, in case you need to visit the country.

Which Countries are Affected by the Omicron Variant?

This new variant was initially found in Botswana. But eventually, it spread to some of its neighboring countries. Bearing this in mind, the list of affected nations includes:

  • South Africa
  • Botswana
  • Zimbabwe
  • Namibia
  • Lesotho
  • Eswatini
  • Mozambique
  • Malawi

Each government has its own list of high-risk countries. But the aforementioned nations appear in most of them. We advise you to check official sources (such as the website of your local health authorities) for more detailed information.

On a side note, some cases of the Omicron variant have been detected outside of Africa. Most of these cases are travelers returning from the continent. Therefore, there are chances that some new travel restrictions may arise in the near future.

But for now, without further ado, let’s dive into the current measures keeping the virus at bay around the world.

New South Africa Travel Restrictions and Bans

As we’ve already mentioned, multiple countries have decided to take precautionary measures to prevent this new Covid-19 variant from spreading. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples.

USA

From November the 29th, only nationals and residents are allowed to enter the United States from Southern Africa. All flights from the aforementioned countries will be restricted. Additionally, US nationals and legal residents will have to show negative Covid-19 test results before boarding.

Canada

All foreigners who have been in the region (except for Malawi) during the last 14 days will be banned from entering Canada. In the case of nationals and residents, they must take a Covid-19 test upon arrival and self-quarantine until they test negative.

UK

The UK has added the aforementioned African countries to their red list. After landing, residents and locals should follow the UK’s anti-Covid protocol. That means that, as a returning traveler, you’ll have to get tested as soon as possible. You’ll also have to quarantine at a hotel. The expenses associated with this quarantine are around £3000, and they must be covered by the traveler.

European Union

As for Germany, from November the 26th, the country has declared South Africa, Lesotho, and Eswatini as “virus variant areas”. Consequently, only flights repatriating German citizens will be entering the country. Regardless of vaccination status, travelers must undergo a 14-day quarantine upon arrival.

Other European nations, such as Austria, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Malta have announced imminent travel bans for travelers who have been in the region during the last 14 days.

Is There a South Africa Travel Ban?

As for now, the South African government won’t impose new restrictions, but will consider making vaccination mandatory to attend certain events and activities. Currently, everyone in the country has to wear a face mask while in public.

Nevertheless, if you need to enter or transit through South Africa, here’s what you need to do as an international traveler:

Once you land in South Africa, you must show a negative PCR test to airport authorities. You must take this test 72 hours before the flight. Children under 5 years old are exempted. It is advisable that you carry more than one copy of your test results, as you might be asked to show them multiple times during your journey.

In the case of you not showing the required test, you will be asked to get an antigen test. If it turns out positive, you will have to self-quarantine for 10 days in a hotel, at your own expense.

During your flight, you will have to wear a face mask, a rule that doesn’t apply to children under the age of six. Before landing, you are to fill out a “traveler health questionnaire”.

Upon arrival, you will be subject to screening. Airport authorities will check your temperature and ask you some questions about where you’ve recently been.

Key Takeaways

As of this writing, most countries are restricting flights coming from Southern Africa. As we’ve analyzed, in Europe and North America, only nationals and resident returning travelers will be allowed entry. And, they’ll have to get tested and quarantine.

Experts say there is still a lot to learn about the Omicron variant. According to the WHO, it will take a couple of weeks to actually understand its impact, as researchers are still figuring out how transmissible it is. Hence, these are precautionary restrictions to keep everyone safe and sound.

Nonetheless, there is a way you can help to prevent this new mutation from spreading, and all nations agree on it: Get tested. Visit our global directory and find the nearest covid testing center now.