Asia built a rampart to block Omicron 7

Asia built a rampart to block Omicron 7

Although the extent of Omicron's threat is still unclear, a series of Asian countries have tightened entry restrictions and quarantines to prevent the mutation from spreading.

Singapore Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on November 30 compared the Omicron strain to an escalating game of snake dice.

`We don’t know what the next roll of the dice will be and where we will go. It could just be a mutation that won’t have a big impact,` Ong said at a press conference, adding that Singapore will continue

However, officials are not reckless, even though no cases of Omicron infection have been detected in Singapore so far.

From December 3, Singapore will tighten testing regulations for all incoming passengers, including residents returning from abroad and those transiting at Changi Airport, requiring test results before departure.

Singapore, which has opened 27 quarantine-free travel corridors for vaccinated people (VTL), will delay a similar plan with Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia, the hubs.

Those who are VTL passengers from December 3 will be required to take rapid antigen tests on the third and seventh days after arriving in Singapore.

Anyone infected with Omicron is not allowed to self-treat at home but must be quarantined at the National Center for Infectious Diseases until recovered.

Check passengers’ body temperature before boarding the bus from Singapore to Malaysia on November 29.

Malaysia on December 1 announced a ban on entry for passengers from countries that have recorded cases of Omicron infection or are listed as high risk.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin announced that he would not accept passengers on direct or transit flights from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

Malaysians from these countries can return home but must be quarantined for 14 days at a government-designated facility.

On November 30, Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the government would stop the plan to switch to a state of considering Covid-19 as an endemic disease.

Minister Khairy urged people to comply with epidemic control regulations, noting that `Omicron may be more contagious than Delta, but we do not yet know its virulence.`

Foreigners who have been to South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Eswatini, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Angola, Zambia and Hong Kong in the past 14 days will be banned from entering Indonesia.

International passengers and Indonesians arriving from other places will have to quarantine for a week, instead of three days as before.

Bali and Jakarta will have to raise community restrictions to level 2, instead of level 1 as before.

The changes come as Indonesia has only just begun to open up and allow entry to fully vaccinated people from 19 countries since October. This country has so far not recorded a case of Omicron infection.

From November 28, the Philippines bans all passengers from 14 African and European countries, expected to last at least until December 15.

Hong Kong is currently still on the `yellow list`, requiring fully vaccinated people to quarantine for three days at a designated facility and be tested twice.

Countries on the Philippines’ `red list`, banned from entry regardless of vaccination status, include Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe

Health Secretary Francisco Duque warned on November 29 that Omicron appearing in the Philippines was only a matter of time.

Thailand has not recorded a case of infection with the Omicron strain, but may postpone plans to replace PCR testing for people entering the country with rapid antigen testing.

On November 28, the Minister of Public Health announced that travelers from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe are banned from entering from December 1.

International passengers arriving at New Delhi airport and some other major airports in India from December 1 may have to wait at least 6 more hours to complete new mandatory testing regulations for at-risk countries.

New Delhi has not banned flights from South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana, but passengers arriving or transiting in these locations will have to take a PCR test upon arrival in India and wait for the results before leaving the airport.

Every state is required to trace people arriving from abroad in the past month and increase testing.

The state of Maharashtra has imposed a mandatory 7-day quarantine for international travelers from at-risk countries in a government announcement, according to Bloomberg.

Last week, India announced the resumption of international commercial flights from December 15, but the plan is being reconsidered.

State officials also have strong measures to increase the rate of people receiving the second dose of vaccination.

Asia built a rampart to block Omicron

A man stands in front of an electronic board displaying canceled flights at Haneda International Airport, Tokyo on November 29.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on November 30 urged officials to immediately tighten immigration surveillance, right after health authorities reported the first suspected case of infection with the Omicron variant.

`Mutation can destroy efforts to prevent Covid-19,` Mr. Moon warned.

On November 28, South Korea imposed an entry ban on eight African countries, including South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.

Vaccinated travelers from other countries must present a negative PCR test result upon arrival, then take a second test at the local health center and self-isolate until the results are available.

The number of new daily infections in South Korea exceeded 5,000 for the first time on December 1, after the government relaxed social distancing measures from early November – the first step in efforts to return to normal life.

Japan on December 1 announced it would refuse entry to citizens of 10 southern African countries, the area where the Omicron variant was first detected, even if they are permanent residents in this East Asian country.

The new regulations were added after Tokyo earlier this week announced an entry ban on all foreigners who are not permanent residents in Japan.

Stricter quarantine measures were also re-imposed.

Japan currently records two new cases of mutated infection, including a person from Peru, who entered the country last month, and a man from Namibia.

Omicron caused Australia to decide to delay by two weeks the plan to open to skilled immigrant workers and international students, which was set to take effect from December 1.

Vaccinated Australians traveling from other countries must quarantine for 72 hours upon arrival in Sydney and Melbourne.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on November 29 that the country will move to live with Covid-19 from the weekend, but will still close its borders to most international visitors for another 5 months.

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