Morocco bans inbound international passenger flights for two weeks

North African country says it made decision to preserve gains it made in the fight against the pandemic

Live updates: follow the latest news on Covid-19 variant Omicron

Morocco will ban all inbound international passenger flights for two weeks from November 29 over concerns about the Omicron Covid-19 variant, the government has said.

The North African country took the decision to “preserve the achievements realised by Morocco in the fight against the pandemic, and to protect the health of citizens”, the Foreign Ministry wrote on Twitter.

Morocco has been at the forefront of vaccinations in Africa and kept its borders closed for months in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic and fears its health system would not be able to cope with the surges of patients seen in nearby Europe.

It noted the spread of Omicron in Africa and Europe.

The kingdom in North Africa has had some of Africa’s highest rates of confirmed infections but has vaccinated 66 per cent of its population with at least one dose.

The flight suspension was among the most dramatic of many restrictions being imposed by nations around the world as they scramble to slow the Omicron variant’s spread.

In response, Emirates and Etihad have cancelled commercial flights to Morocco from the UAE.

Much remains to be learnt about the new variant, but researchers are concerned that it may be more resistant to the protection provided by vaccines.

Japan said on Monday it would close its borders to foreigners, as the world's third-largest economy joined Israel in taking the toughest measures against the Omicron variant, which also cast a cloud over Australia's reopening plans.

Omicron, also known as B.1.1.529, is a coronavirus strain with an unusually large number of mutations.

The variant is likely to spread internationally, posing a "very high" global risk where Covid-19 surges could have "severe consequences" in some areas, the World Health Organisation said on Monday.

Updated: November 29th 2021, 1:10 PM