Britain, Germany and Italy detected cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant on Saturday. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new steps to contain the virus, while more nations imposed restrictions on travel from southern Africa.
The discovery of the variant has sparked global concern, a wave of travel bans or curbs and a sell-off on financial markets on Friday as investors worried that Omicron could stall a global recovery from the nearly two-year pandemic.
Israel said it would ban the entry of all foreigners into the country and reintroduce counter-terrorism phone-tracking technology to contain the spread of the variant.
The two linked cases of Omicron detected in Britain were connected to travel to southern Africa, British health minister Sajid Javid said.
Johnson laid out measures that included stricter testing rules for people arriving in the country but that stopped short of curbs on social activity other than requiring mask wearing in some settings.
“We will require anyone who enters the UK to take a PCR test by the end of the second day after their arrival and to self-isolate until they have a negative result,” Johnson told a news conference.
People who had come into contact with people testing positive for a suspected case of Omicron would have to self-isolate for 10 days and the government would tighten the rules on wearing face coverings, Johnson said, adding the steps would be reviewed in three weeks.
India too has started tightening its travel rules to prevent the transmission of the new COVID-19 variant. On Saturday, the PM had chaired a review meeting on COVID-19 situation and vaccination with top government officials.
The statement released by the PMO after the meet had said, “PM highlighted the need for monitoring all international arrivals, their testing as per guidelines, with a specific focus on countries identified ‘at risk’. PM also asked officials to review plans for easing international travel restrictions in light of the emerging new evidence.”