Lines of people leaving South Africa

Johannesburg airport check-in counters were packed with passengers as people rushed to board flights leaving South Africa due to concerns about the Omicron mutation.

According to Google flight data, airfares from South Africa to the UK have tripled in the last 24 hours, from 9,000 rand ($553) to 28,000 rand (more than $1,700), after the UK imposed a travel ban. because of the Omicron mutation.

“I went to South Africa to attend a relative’s wedding, but now I have to return urgently. I have a few friends who were on a flight back to the UK when the travel ban was introduced and they are now stuck in Frankfurt.” Warren Coskey, an Irish citizen queuing at South Africa’s Johannesburg airport, shared. “Airport authorities don’t understand what’s going on.”

Lines of people leaving South Africa

Passengers wait at Johannesburg airport on November 26. Video: AFP.

Photos at Johannesburg International Airport on the afternoon of November 26 show a large number of passengers, mostly Westerners, queuing at the security gate to wait to board the plane to return home.

British Health Secretary Sajid Javid on November 26 listed six African countries on the travel red list, calling it a move “to be cautious and try to protect the border as best as possible”. From 4 a.m. on November 28, all people arriving in the UK from South Africa will have to be quarantined.

“I’m really stressed about the cost of quarantine. So much anxiety and uncertainty right now,” Coskey continued.

In addition to the UK, a series of countries such as the US, Canada, Japan, Brazil, 27 European Union (EU) countries, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Jordan, Morocco… imposed travel restrictions to southern Africa due to concerns about the Omicron mutation, although WHO suggested not to rush to make these moves without much scientific evidence on how dangerous it is. .

Passengers line up at Johannesburg International Airport, South Africa, on November 26.  Photo: AP.

Passengers line up at Johannesburg International Airport, South Africa, on November 26. Photo: AP.

Hundreds of passengers from South Africa on November 26 were prevented from disembarking at Schiphol airport for several hours in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, due to concerns about a new strain with a high risk of infection. They were finally able to get off the plane, but had to go to an isolation location to wait for test results.

During an emergency meeting on November 26, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked Omicron (formerly known as B.1.1.529) on the list of worrisome mutations due to its higher infectivity than Delta. Omicron was first reported in South Africa, with a number of cases later recorded in Belgium, Israel and the Chinese special administrative region of Hong Kong.

Scientists are racing to determine the threat posed by the Omicron strain and whether current Covid-19 vaccines need to be adjusted. Vaccine giants BioNTech, Pfizer and Moderna are also rushing to study ways to adjust vaccines to deal with this mutation.

Ngoc Anh (Follow iNews)

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