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Sunday, 28 November 2021

Egypt bans flights from southern Africa as world panics over new covid variant

That February 2020 feeling: Egypt is among a growing number of countries moving to prevent the newly-discovered Omicron covid variant Omicron from arriving on its shores. Following in the footsteps of the US, Canada EU and many countries in the Middle East, the Madbouly government announced on Thursday that it has suspended flights from seven countries in southern Africa, where the World Health Organization said the strain originated and is currently spreading.

Direct flights between Egypt and South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini have been suspended and travellers arriving in Egypt from the countries via indirect flights will face additional precautionary measures.

What are the measures? Travellers coming from these countries to Egypt for transit or as a final destination will have to take a rapid covid test. If they test positive, they will have to leave the country on the same plane they flew in on. Travellers who test negative will need to self-quarantine for a week and take a PCR test by the end of it.

So far, Egypt is in the clear: Health officials have not yet detected any Omicron cases in Egypt, Health Ministry spokesman Hossam Abdel Ghaffar told Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi (watch, runtime: 10:50) last night.

A traveller returning to Belgium from Egypt was said to have been with the new covid-19 variant that originated in Botswana and South Africa, a virologist working with the Belgian health authorities, said on Twitter. They were headed back to the EU country via Turkey on 11 November and started developing symptoms. The traveler was confirmed to have the B.1.1.529, Omicron variant, 11 days later, Van Ranst said.

The ministry sought to distance Egypt from Belgium's patient zero last night: Abdel Ghaffar told El Hadidi that it is unlikely she became infected in Egypt because her symptoms appeared 11 days after leaving the country. A WHO official in Belgium reportedly told Egyptian authorities that the patient took two PCR tests after leaving Egypt, both of which were negative.

We don’t have to worry about the imminent return of remote learning: In an interview on El Hekaya last night, Education Minister Tarek Shawki ​​said that it is too early to say what will happen in the coming weeks because we still don’t know much about the variant (watch, runtime: 1:47). “Our main concern is to carry on with the academic year, because we wasted a lot of time over the past two years,” he told show host Amr Adib, explaining that the Education Ministry is currently awaiting the Health Ministry’s instructions before making any major decisions.

Health Ministry officials are ramping up covid precautions at land, air, and seaports and will begin tightening the screening of travellers entering the country, Higher Education Minister and acting Health Minister Khaled Abdel Ghaffar said, according to a statement.

The ministry reported 931 new covid-19 infections yesterday, up from 913 the day before. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 355,767 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 68 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 20,305.

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