Feds impose travel ban as World Health Organization declares new variant of concern

The variant has been named omicron

Canada is responding to concerns about a new COVID-variant and has issued a travel ban on all foreign nationals who have travelled through seven southern African countries (Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini, and Mozambique) in the last 14 days.

Ottawa says Canadian citizens and permanent residents will be allowed to return home from these countries, but they will be required to go to a hotel and wait for the results of a COVID-19 arrival test.

If the test comes back negative, these travellers will be allowed to go home, where they are to remain for a mandatory 14 days. They will also be required to take a so-called “day eight” test on the eighth day of quarantine.

Earlier today, both Premier Doug Ford and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole call on the Trudeau government to impose a ban on all non-essential travel to and from southern Africa.

The United States is also going to restrict entry for foreign nationals from southern Africa. The only difference from the restrictions announced by Ottawa is Washington has added Malawi to the list.

The United Kingdom, the European Union and many other countries already had announced they were restricting travel from Africa.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization on Friday said the new COVID variant identified in South Africa as a variant of concern.

The variant has been named omicron.

In a statement, the WHO says that the variant “has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning.”

Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of infection with this variant, as compared to other variants, according to the statement.

The variant was first reported to WHO from South Africa on Wednesday. It has also been identified in Israel, Belgium, Hong Kong and Botswana.

The WHO says it will take several weeks to understand the impact of the variant.