OTTAWA: Canada on Friday banned foreign travelers from seven African countries -- Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe -- over concerns about the spread of a new Covid strain.
Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos made the announcement, joining a step taken by several other countries, including the United States as well as the European Union, after the World Health Organization declared the recently discovered B.1.1.529 strain of Covid-19 to be a "variant of concern," renaming it Omicron.
"We are acting quickly in order to protect the health and safety of Canadians," Duclos told a news conference.
"We know very little about this variant right now," said Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam, "including how transmissible it is and whether it increases severity of illness or what the impact is on the vaccine.
"But because of so many mutations in specific areas of the genome, we're taking this precautionary measure," she said.
There are no direct flights to Canada from the seven nations listed in the travel ban.
Canadian travelers arriving indirectly from the region will be required to obtain a pre-flight negative Covid test and quarantine for 14 days on arrival in the country.
The travel restrictions will be in place until January 31, while officials "assess the evolving situation," said Transport Minister Omar Alghabra.