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Kazakhstan adopts travel measures to keep from omicron variant

Passengers from various Sothern African countries required to have PCR tests, stay at home for a week

Meiramgul Kussainova   | 30.11.2021
Kazakhstan adopts travel measures to keep from omicron variant

NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan has opted to put passengers, who arrive from countries where new COVID-19 variant omicron was identified, under home quarantine for a week.

Deputy Health Minister Marat Soranov told a Cabinet meeting that the new regulations would be in effect as of Dec. 3 to keep the new variant from Kazakhstan.

Passengers from South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Madagascar, Esvatini, Tanzania and Hong Kong are also required to provide a PCR test result, regardless of their vaccination status.

The heavily mutated variant was first identified in South Africa earlier this month, prompting several countries to impose travel bans and other restrictions on Southern African countries, a decision criticized by South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa and others.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the new strain a variant of concern, but studies are ongoing to know more about its severity and transmissibility. Preliminary evidence, however, has suggested there may be an increased risk of reinfection with omicron.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he's "deeply concerned" about the isolation of southern African countries due to new travel restrictions.

"The people of Africa cannot be blamed for the immorally low level of vaccinations available & should not be penalized for sharing health information with the world," he tweeted on Monday.

Addressing the World Health Assembly meeting in Geneva, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said vaccine inequity has facilitated the appearance of new highly mutated variants.

“Omicron demonstrates just why the world needs a new accord on pandemics: our current system disincentivizes countries from alerting others to threats that will inevitably land on their shores”, said the WHO director general.

Tedros underscored that South Africa should be thanked for detecting, sequencing and reporting the new variant, and not penalized.

* Writing by Ali Murat Alhas in Ankara

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