Central European country bars visitors from several countries as fears increase over Covid-19 strain
Switzerland issued an entry ban for travelers from Israel and other countries affected by the new omicron variant of Covid-19 that the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday labeled a "variant of concern."
As of Friday night, passengers from Israel, the southern Africa region, Hong Kong and Belgium are not allowed to enter the central European country unless they are Swiss citizens or have a residence permit in Switzerland or in one of the 26 Schengen countries.
For those allowed entry, a negative Covid-19 test will need to be presented followed by a 10-day quarantine.
The B1.1.529 virus mutation was first detected in South Africa and has started to spread, prompting governments to impose fresh travel restrictions, including the United States, Britain, the European Union and Canada halting flights from several southern African states.
Israel also announced a travel ban from the southern Africa region, broadening it to include all African countries outside of North Africa that were added to the "red list" of countries deemed a high risk of transmission.
Israel on Friday detected several cases of the omicron variant, the Health Ministry said.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is expected to announce the next steps on Saturday evening after Shabbat.
On Saturday, Dutch authorities were trying to determine if 61 passengers from South Africa who tested positive for Covid-19 have the omicron strain of the virus.
Germany and the Czech Republic on Saturday announced that the first suspected cases of the new variant were detected, becoming the second and third countries in Europe after Belgium on Friday to identify a suspected case of the highly infectious version of the virus.
The main countries targeted by the shutdown include South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini (Swaziland), Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.