Men wearing protective suits make their way at a bus stop at Narita international airport on the first day of closed borders to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus Omicron variant amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Narita, east of Tokyo, Japan, November 30, 2021 [Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters]
By FARAH NAJJAR and USAID SIDDIQUI, Al Jazeera

■ UN warns travel bans are hindering the sharing of samples from South Africa that could shed light on the new variant ■

The World Health Organization has said travel bans are having an impact on global cooperation against the Omicron coronavirus variant by delaying the sharing of laboratory samples from South Africa that could help research into the new strain.

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, said that South African researchers have been keen to share information, data, and samples, but that travel bans “have caused some challenges for those samples to actually be shipped out of the country”.

Scientists have been scrambling to learn more about the effects of the Omicron variant, first detected in South Africa last week. It has now been reported in at least 24 countries.

While remains unclear where or when the variant first emerged, nations have rushed to impose travel restrictions, especially on visitors coming from Southern Africa, despite the WHO’s call for “rational” measures in response to the new strain.

The first confirmed case of the Omicron variant in the United States has been detected in a person in California, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday.

Map: Tracking global Omicron travel restrictions

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA

■ More than 30 countries have imposed travel bans following the spread of the Omicron coronavirus mutation ■

More than 30 countries have closed their borders to some nations and others have imposed stricter measures to curb the spread of the Omicron variant.

The newly detected coronavirus variant has prompted countries to tighten their borders just as many were beginning to reopen to foreign travel.

Nations are adopting differing levels of border control with countries such as Israel, Morocco and Japan closing their borders entirely, while others have only tightened COVID testing at the border.

The map below shows countries that have imposed travel bans. It will be updated as more information becomes available.

INTERACTIVE: Map Global Omicron travel restrictions

Image courtesy AL JAZEERA via FLOURISH.

Total bans

China – China already had stringent border controls in place, with only citizens and resident permit holders allowed into the country. Hong Kong banned non-Hong Kong residents arriving from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe. On Monday it expanded the list to include Angola, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zambia, and then non-residents who had been to Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Israel, and Italy in the past 21 days. On Wednesday it added Japan, Portugal and Sweden to its list.

Israel – Israel banned foreigners from entering the country for 14 days. Israeli citizens will be able to come back to the country but will need to quarantine, even if fully vaccinated.

Japan – Japan closed its borders to non-citizens for one month, this includes foreign exchange students and those travelling for business. Those with resident status from 10 African nations including South Africa are also banned from entering the country “for the time being.”

Morocco – Morocco suspended all incoming flights for two weeks.

Partial bans

Angola – Angola announced it will close its borders with countries in southern Africa including Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe until January 5.

Australia – Australia halted all flights from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa and Zimbabwe for at least 14 days.

Brazil – Brazil closed its border to flights from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Cambodia – Cambodia banned travellers from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Angola, and Zambia.

Canada – Canada banned non-citizens who have travelled to Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe since November 12.

Ecuador – Ecuador has restricted entry from Botswana, Egypt, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe

Egypt – Egypt halted direct flights from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Fiji – Fiji already had strict border controls, and only citizens can enter the country.

France – France stopped flights from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Germany – Germany has suspended all flights from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Indonesia – Indonesia banned any foreigners who spent the last 14 days in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Italy – Italy suspended the arrival of anyone who has travelled to Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe in the last 14 days.

Kuwait – Kuwait halted direct flights from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, with non-citizens not permitted to enter if they have travelled to those countries.

Malaysia – Malaysia, which has kept its borders all but sealed for much of the pandemic, has also announced a travel ban covering South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.

Maldives – Foreigners who have travelled to or through Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe within the past 14 days will be denied entry.

Malta – Malta banned travel to and from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe

Netherlands – The Netherlands has suspended flights from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe carrying non-citizens.

New Zealand – New Zealand is only allowing citizens into the country. Any foreign travellers from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa and Zimbabwe will be denied entry.

Oman – Oman has suspended flights from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe and anyone who travelled to these countries in the past 14 days will also be banned from entry.

Pakistan – Pakistan closed its borders to Botswana, Hong Kong, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa.

Paraguay – Paraguay has restricted entry from Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Philippines – The Philippines halted inbound flights from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe until December 15.

Poland – Poland has restricted travel from seven southern African countries.

Russia – Russia suspended entry of non-Russians who travelled through Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

Rwanda – Rwanda suspended all direct flights to and from southern Africa.

Saudi Arabia – Saudi Arabia halted flights from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe and non-citizens who have spent the past 14 days in the listed countries will be barred from entry

Singapore – Any non-citizens from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe will be barred from entering Singapore.

Sri Lanka – Foreigners from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe will be barred from entry.

Thailand – Thailand enforced a travel ban on those from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe from December.

Turkey – Turkey banned arrivals from Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

United Arab Emirates – Travellers from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe are restricted from travelling to the UAE.

United Kingdom – The UK added Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe to its red list.

United States – The US restricted non-citizens from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe from entering the country.