Turkey has imposed a ban on travel from five African countries after the emergence of a new coronavirus variant, local media reported on Friday, citing a social media post by Health Minister Fahrettin Koca.
“Travel from Botswana, Republic of South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe to our country through all our land, air, sea, and rail border crossings will not be allowed as of tonight,” Koca announced on Friday on Twitter.
The new coronavirus strain from Southern Africa, B.1.1.529, was named “Omicron” and designated as “a variant of concern” by the World Health Organization on Friday.
The news of the variant, which has around double the amount of mutations as the Delta variant, is already sparking fears around the world, although only a few dozen cases have been identified so far, CNN international reported on Saturday.
Following the discovery of the Omicron variant, the European Union and other major destinations, including the United States and Canada, have moved to block flights from African countries, echoing previous emergency responses that triggered a global freeze on travel.
So far, the new strain has been detected in South Africa, Botswana and in two travelers quarantining in Hong Kong. A case has also been reported in Belgium.
Turkey has administered around 120 million vaccines against COVID-19, mainly China’s Coronavac and Pfizer-BioNTech, with 56.1 million people receiving one dose, some 50.3 million receiving two doses and 12 million receiving a third.
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country increased by 24,002 and 201 more deaths were registered in the last 24 hours, according to Health Ministry data released on Friday. Turkey has reported over 8.3 million COVID-19 cases and some 73,127 deaths since the outbreak of the pandemic on March 11, 2020.