Live updates: follow the latest news on Covid-19 variant Omicron
The new strain – initially known as B.1.1.529 – has triggered a surge in cases in South Africa, with infections also detected in countries such as Australia, the UK, Germany, Israel, Italy and the Czech Republic.
The WHO has said the variant must still be thoroughly studied to assess its danger to the public.
Many nations around the world – including in the Gulf region – have taken swift action to safeguard public health and stem the spread of the variant by imposing travel restrictions.
Here, The National summarises the new travel rules in the region.
The UAE has suspended the entry of travellers from seven southern Africa countries due to concerns over the new Covid-19 variant.
The decision, which comes into effect on Monday, will apply to passengers who have travelled through South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Botswana or Mozambique over the past 14 days.
The General Civil Aviation Authority and the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Emergency Management Authority made the announcement on Friday.
Flights will continue to transport passengers from the UAE to these seven countries for now.
Citizens of the UAE, members of diplomatic missions, official delegations and those with golden residence visas are excluded from the new rules.
Bahrain banned the entry of travellers from South Africa and several other African nations in recent days.
South Africa was initially joined on the ban list by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Eswatini, the state news agency BNA reported on Friday.
On Sunday, passengers from Malawi, Mozambique, Angola and Zambia were also prohibited from entering Bahrain.
Bahraini citizens and residency visa holders are excluded from the ban, which was announced by the Civil Aviation Authority.
Israel will bar entry to the country of all foreign citizens for 14 days, effective from midnight on Sunday, under tough new directives announced by the Prime Minister's Office.
Israel has seven suspected cases of the Omicron variant, the country's Health Ministry reported.
Three involve people who did not travel abroad recently, while four had returned from abroad, including one who travelled from Malawi. Three of the seven were classified as vaccinated.
Late on Saturday the country's coronavirus cabinet approved measures to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant.
Ministers also expanded mandatory quarantine for vaccinated Israelis arriving from abroad and gave the country’s security agency clearance to resume tracking infected people.
Jordan's Interior Ministry has announced a ban for non-Jordanian travellers coming from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Eswatini.
Kuwait is to suspend direct flights from nine African countries from Sunday, the government communication centre tweeted on Saturday, citing a Cabinet decision.
Those countries are South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zambia and Malawi.
Morocco has banned travellers from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Eswatini.
Oman has suspended entry to travellers from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Eswatini starting from Sunday, the country's state news agency said in a tweet on Saturday.
Qatar Airways said on Saturday it has banned entry to travellers from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
Qatar's Ministry of Public Health updated its list of exceptional red list countries, under which entry to unvaccinated passengers is barred, on Friday in response to the new variant.
South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Lesotho are also on the list.
Saudi Arabia on Friday suspended flights to and from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Eswatini.
It said, however, that foreign citizens from the seven countries could enter the kingdom if they had spent the previous 14 days in another country and comply with Saudi Arabia's health protocols.
On Saturday, the kingdom updated its rules and said it will allow entry to travellers "from all countries", as long as they have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine inside Saudi Arabia.
Authorities said people would be allowed in from December 3 and would need to quarantine for three days. It did not mention the flight suspensions.
On Sunday, the Ministry of Interior confirmed the suspension of flights to and from another seven countries; Malawi, Zambia, Madagascar, Angola, Seychelles, Mauritius and Comoros.