NUR-SULTAN – Kazakhstan will tighten travel rules for international arrivals from Dec. 3 over the concerns of a new Omicron variant, First Vice Healthcare Minister Marat Shoranov told a government meeting on Tuesday.
Foreign nationals from Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Madagascar, Eswatini, Tanzania, Malawi, and Hong Kong will not be able to visit Kazakhstan, while those arriving from Israel, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Belgium, United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, Australia, and Canada, would have to present a PCR test result and would be quarantined for 7 days regardless of the test result.
Air travel to Egypt, which has also confirmed the new variant, will be suspended due to high passenger traffic between the countries.
“WHO has designated it (Omicron) as a variant for concern. According to preliminary data compared to other types of coronavirus infection, the Omicron variant is more contagious than the Delta, affects mostly people aged 20-30 years, and there is also the risk of reinfection,” said Shoranov noting that the epidemiological situation in Kazakhstan remains stable.
As of Dec. 2, Kazakhstan reported 973,045 coronavirus cases and 82,734 coronavirus pneumonia cases.
Kazakhstan was not the first country to impose travel restrictions on arrivals from Africa. As South Africa first reported the new variant with the growing concerns of easier transmission, countries around the world rushed to tighten restrictions. Omicron has now spread to more than 20 countries, including the United States., Germany, Saudi Arabia, and Australia, but the World Health Organization said these restrictions “place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods.”
“In addition, they can adversely impact global health efforts during a pandemic by disincentivizing countries to report and share epidemiological and sequencing data. All countries should ensure that the measures are regularly reviewed and updated when new evidence becomes available on the epidemiological and clinical characteristics of Omicron or any other variant of concern,” said the WHO in a statement.