Spain announced Tuesday the suspension of flights from southern Africa from Thursday until December 15, in order to “fight against the spread” of the Omicron variant, first identified in South Africa.
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This decision, adopted by the Council of Ministers, had been awaited for several days. It comes as a first case of contamination was detected Monday in Madrid on a traveler from South Africa.
Seven countries are affected by the restrictions, according to the Spanish authorities: South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi. The measure will come into effect Thursday and will be maintained until December 15 at midnight.
These restrictions may “be extended if necessary depending on the evolution of the situation and the pandemic and decisions that can be taken in a coordinated manner in the European Union”, specify the Ministries of Health and Transport in a joint statement. .
Exceptions are provided for flights carrying “exclusively Spanish citizens residing in Spain as well as residents of Andorra” and “passengers in international transit to a country” outside the Schengen area “with a stopover of less than 24 hours “.
However, the latter will not have the possibility to “leave the transit zone of the airport”, warn the ministries in their press release.
Spain is thus extending the list of countries that have suspended flights from the southern cone of Africa since the identification of the Omicron variant. These restrictions have been denounced by South Africa, but also by the World Health Organization (WHO).
These restrictions aim to “protect the health and safety of citizens by containing the progression of the disease”, “in line with the recommendations in the field of European coordination”, defended in its press release the Spanish government.
The new variant of the coronavirus, which is already circulating in many countries in Europe, was detected for the first time in Spain in a 51-year-old man who returned from South Africa on Sunday. According to the hospital that took care of him, he had mild symptoms.
The WHO has rated the “likelihood of Omicron spreading globally” “high”. The head of the UN organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, nevertheless asked Member States on Tuesday for a “rational” and “proportional” response to this variant.