Americas, Latest on coronavirus outbreak

Chile imposes travel bans over new COVID-19 variant concerns

Countries around world continue to close borders to keep omicron variant away

Laura Gamba Fadul   | 30.11.2021
Chile imposes travel bans over new COVID-19 variant concerns

BOGOTA, Colombia

Chile joined on Monday the list of countries imposing travel restrictions from southern Africa as a result of the increasing uncertainty caused by the omicron COVID-19 variant. 

As of Wednesday, non-resident foreigners who have spent the last few days in the African countries of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini and Mozambique will be banned from entering Chile.

"We have decided, as a preventive measure until we know more about the new variant, to make some changes," said the Undersecretary of Healthcare Networks, Alberto Dougnac, during the daily delivery of the coronavirus tally on Monday.  

Other Latin American countries such as Brazil and Guatemala have announced similar measures. 

Brazil closed its borders with seven countries in southern Africa in an effort to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus variant, according to the Presidential Chief of Staff Ciro Nogueira on Friday. 

The country's air borders with South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe are now closed, said Nogueira, even though President Jair Bolsonaro had previously stated he would not support such border closures. 

"What madness is that? You close the airport and the virus does not enter? It's already here," Bolsonaro said on Friday, when he was asked by a supporter if he would consider closing the airports. "We have to learn to live with the virus," added the president, who has always opposed restrictions imposed to try to contain the advance of COVID 19. 

Guatemala has also set new restrictions on entry into the country for travelers from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Eswatini. 

European countries such as Britain, Germany and Italy have already confirmed its first cases. Some have announced new quarantine measures and mandatory mask rules and are shutting their borders to foreign travelers. South Africa has protested the measures. 

While the World Health Organization said on Monday that the global risk posed by the new omicron variant is “very high” and that it may spread more quickly than other variants, the UN chief Antonio Guterres, said he was “deeply concerned about the isolation of southern African countries.”

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