US to impose stricter entry rules amid Omicron concern

CDC is working to revise its Global Testing Order

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Stricter Covid-19 testing rules for air travellers entering the US are being worked on amid concerns about a new Omicron variant, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed on Tuesday.

The CDC said it is working to revise its Global Testing Order "for travel as we learn more about the Omicron variant, a revised order would shorten the timeline for required testing for all international air travellers to one day before departure to the United States".

Malaysia will temporarily ban entry by travellers from countries that have reported the Omicron coronavirus variant or are considered to be high-risk, its Health Ministry said on Wednesday. It will also delay plans to set up so-called Vaccinated Travel Lanes with those countries, said Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.

Japan has found a second person who has tested positive for the Omicron variant, broadcaster FNN reported on Wednesday.

And Nigeria has confirmed its first cases of the variant in two travellers who have entered the country from South Africa, according to its Centre for Disease Control.

Hong Kong will ban non-residents from entering the city from Japan, Portugal and Sweden from Friday, adding to a fast-expanding list of countries facing travel restrictions due to concerns over the Omicron variant.

Non-Hong Kong residents who have been in the three countries in the past 21 days will not be allowed to enter the global financial hub. Residents can only board flights if fully vaccinated and will have to undergo 21-days of quarantine in a hotel at their own cost.

Canada's ban announced on Tuesday on foreign nationals travelling from Nigeria, Malawi and Egypt adds to a growing list of global measures as new findings indicated the mutant coronavirus was already in Europe close to a week before South Africa sounded the alarm.

Two travellers arriving in Brazil from South Africa, a 41-year-old man and a 37-year-old woman, are in isolation, the Sao Paulo state health secretariat said. The two had their tests taken on November 25 and showed light symptoms of the disease at the time.

“After the positive result, the couple was instructed to remain in isolation at home. Both are being monitored by state and municipal (authorities), as well as their respective family members,” said the Sao Paulo health secretariat, which added that neither of the two are registered in the state’s vaccination platform.

“An initial investigation did not identify them being vaccinated anywhere else,” it said.

The Netherlands’ RIVM health institute disclosed that patient samples dating from November 19 and 23 were found to contain the variant. It was on November 24 that South African authorities reported the existence of the highly mutated virus to the World Health Organisation.

That indicates omicron had a bigger head start in the Netherlands than previously thought.

Updated: December 01, 2021, 7:23 AM