W.H.O. says it’s time to lift COVID-19 restrictions; Calls travel bans “ineffective”

W.H.O. says it’s time to lift COVID-19 restrictions; Calls travel bans “ineffective”

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Travel news live: France to lift UK travel ban today

From today, France is lifting its blanket ban on British travellers.

Tourists from the UK who are fully vaccinated will be allowed back into the country for the first time since 18 December, without the need to provide a “compelling reason” for travel or to isolate on arrival.

Travellers will need to provide a negative result from a Covid test – which can be a lateral flow or PCR test – taken in the 24 hours before departure.

The lifting of the ban was confirmed yesterday by French minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, who announced that a decree changing the rules would be published today, with the easing of restrictions taking immediate effect from that point.

Although Mr Lemoyne didn’t provide any timings for the change, The Independent’s travel correspondent, Simon Calder, arrived in France at 4am this morning and was allowed through border control without issue.

The lifting of the travel ban precedes strict new vaccine passport rules, which are being introduced in France from 17 January.

From Monday, visitors will need to have been fully vaccinated – including a booster jab if their second dose was administered more than seven months prior – in order to access most indoor venues.

Follow the latest updates below:


What it’s like to be the first British tourist back in France

As soon as it was announced that the French border would be opening back up to British travellers, The Independent’s travel correspondent, Simon Calder, wasted no time in crossing the Channel.

Despite no official time for the lifting of the UK travel ban having been released, Simon boldly departed on the 11pm DFDS ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe yesterday evening, due to arrive in France at 4am this morning.

Armed with his passport, a signed “sworn statement” and his passenger arrival form, Simon boarded the four-hour sailing as the only foot passenger and hoped for the best.

As it turned out, he was let into France without issue – confirming that the ban has already been lifted for those travelling from the UK.

“Besides breathing in the frosty city air, my main concern is to keep my phone on life support and roaming data topped up so that anyone from bar owners to museum staff can scan the QR code that unlocks the capital,” he said, writing from a Parisian cafe this morning.

“This is France, but not quite as we know it.”

Helen Coffey14 January 2022 08:21


Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s travel liveblog. We’ll be bringing you all the latest news and updates throughout the day.

Helen Coffey14 January 2022 08:04


Two Ryanair planes narrowly avoided crash, investigation finds

Two Ryanair planes had a near miss at Malaga airport two years ago, an investigation has concluded, almost colliding in what investigators have called a “serious incident”.

The official investigation by Spain’s civil aviation authority yesterday revealed that an air traffic controller at the Andalucia airport had given one Ryanair flight permission to land on a runway from which another Ryanair flight had been given permission to take off.

The distance between the two Boeing 737s was, at its closest, 520 metres – 16 per cent of the minimum recommended safety margin, which was the length of the runway (3,200 metres).

Lucy Thackray13 January 2022 17:06


Ski instructor bookings forecast to rise by 300%

Ski and snowboard instructor marketplace Maison Sport is forecasting a 300 per cent rise in instructor bookings over the next two weeks, compared with the previous period.

The company already saw a record day of bookings on Wednesday of this week, as anticipation grew around the prospect of France reopening.

Now the announcement has been made, it expects an “unprecendented surge” of demand for instructors.

Founder and CEO Nick Robinson says: “This is more welcome news at long last for the industry, particularly for the many local instructors who have been incredibly frustrated by the protracted lifting of the border restrictions. Morzine has been particularly affected, with large numbers of instructors facing the prospect of no bookings for the next few weeks.

“It may be a case of from rags to riches for many instructors now as we expect an unprecedented surge of bookings from now until the end of the season, as the majority of customers have been holding off as they waited for this news before confirming lessons.

“With so much great availability in late winter, after a slow December, we expect the next two weeks to be the biggest in our company’s history, with a 300 per cent increase in bookings anticipated.”

Lucy Thackray13 January 2022 15:59


Cyprus trips made slightly cheaper as antigen tests allowed

Authorities in Cyprus have announced that either antigen or PCR tests will be accepted for visitors’ pre-travel Covid tests, meaning slightly lower testing costs for holidaymakers.

The change in rules comes in tomorrow morning.

“Passengers aged 12 years old and over who arrive in Cyprus as of 14 January at 5am local time will have the option of taking a PCR test carried out up to 72 hours before their departure or an antigen rapid test carried out up to 24 hours before their departure,” said the country’s Transport, Communications and Works Ministry on Wednesday.

All arrivals 12 and over must still take a PCR test upon arrival at Cyprus’ airports, at their own expense, regardless of vaccination status.

Travellers who are yet to have a booster jab must also take a further PCR test 72 hours after arrival.

Lucy Thackray13 January 2022 15:34


What is changing for France’s vaccine passports?

One day after most Britons will be allowed back into France, the country’s rules are set to change around proof of vaccination and entry to venues.

On 6 January, the French government voted in plans to convert its health pass (pass sanitaire) to a vaccine pass (pass vaccinal) – meaning that full vaccination will be required to access public spaces such as restaurants, bars and public transport.

Until now, France’s TousAntiCovid app could be used by people who were not fully vaccinated – displaying a recent negative test result instead of vaccine proof – but as of Saturday, it will only work for fully jabbed visitors.

Meanwhile, from 15 January, everyone over the age of 18 must have received a booster to still be considered “fully” vaccinated in France.

There will be two different vaccine passes: Mobilité (for travel) and Activité (for access to venues such as restaurants and museums).

Lucy Thackray13 January 2022 14:41


RAF pilot to fire space rocket from Virgin jumbo jet later today

A Virgin Orbit space rocket will be launched from a Virgin Atlantic plane over the Pacific Ocean today, flown by an experienced RAF pilot.

Matthew “Stanny” Stannard will take off at around 12.30pm Pacific Time (8.30pm GMT) on a mission to launch the 70ft “space booster”.

The modified Boeing 747-400 – a former Virgin Atlantic passenger jet named Cosmic Girl – will fly out over the Pacific with the rocket attached under its left wing.

About an hour into the flight, the pilot will drop the rocket from about 35,000ft – at which point its first engine will ignite, taking it on a climb into orbit.

Lucy Thackray13 January 2022 13:53


Do not go directly to jail: tips on filling out the French travel forms

While British travellers and the industry wait to find out when admission to France will be possible, these are the two documents that UK visitors will need to complete.

The first is the passenger arrival form. When you complete this, note that the UK is Royaume-Uni on the drop-down menu.

There is a “zipcode” requirement for your birthplace – unless you were born in France, type 999.

When it asks, “What type of accommodation will you be staying in?” select “Individual accommodation”. Do not select “Jail”, one of the other options on the drop-down menu.

You will need to give an approximate location for where you are staying, for which a zipcode is required. For example, tap 75 into the drop-down menu for Paris and choose the appropriate option for the arrondissement where you will stay.

The document generated when you complete the form must be accompanied by your “sworn undertaking to comply with rules for entry” – asserting that you have not been suffering from coronavirus symptoms and “have no knowledge of having been in contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19 during the last 14 days”.

Simon Calder13 January 2022 13:19


Severe delays on Southeastern and Thameslink services after freight train derailed

Passengers experienced severe delays on Southeastern Railway and Thameslink services this morning after the derailment of a freight train at Hoo Junction.

According to Network Rail, “One wheel has come off the rails and some wagons are blocking the down line”.

The body responsible for Britain’s rail infrastructure tweeted early this morning: “Our teams have sourced a rescue locomotive and driver who should be on site shortly. Then they will attach to the wagons blocking passenger trains and pull them clear and back into the sidings.”

Helen Coffey13 January 2022 12:57


When exactly does France ban end and how soon will transport resume?

In terms of the timing of the border reopening, the minister’s wording was simply: “The decree will be published tomorrow [Friday] morning, with immediate entry into force.” The Independent is urgently seeking clarification.

Given the absence of British visitors to France, anyone seeking a city break to Paris or Nice, or a ski trip to the French Alps, over the coming weekend will find a dearth of crowds – and plenty of accommodation availability.

While ferry firms, Eurotunnel shuttles (carrying cars from Folkestone to Calais) and Eurostar trains (carrying passengers from London to Paris) are running to schedule, with plenty of space available, airlines are not able to ramp up so quickly.

Jet2 says its ski flights to France will begin again on 22 January, one week after the ban is lifted.

Meanwhile ferry operators are reporting “phones red hot” as travellers book trips to France.

Simon Calder13 January 2022 11:49

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Travel news live: France expected to lift UK travel ban

France is expected to announce that it will lift its travel ban on most UK travellers in the next couple of days.

On Tuesday, French politician Alexandre Holroyd tweeted: “Following numerous discussions with the Government, considerable reductions in health measures at the borders will be announced very soon.

“More details here in the coming days.”

The cryptic tweet followed several holiday companies telling customers they believed the French ban on all Brits, barring those with a handful of “compelling” reasons for travel, was about to be scrapped.

Some ski travel operators are selling packages for next week, with promises of refunds if the update does not happen.

Yesterday afternoon, government spokesperson Gabriel Attal confirmed that an announcement will be made “by the end of the week”.

Many feel the travel ban is outdated, since the Omicron variant is widespread across many countries, and France’s case numbers are higher than the UK’s.

France adjusted the restrictions on 6 January to allow some essential business travel from the UK, as well as permitting people with homes in an EU country to pass through France to reach them.

Follow the latest updates below:


Good morning

Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s travel liveblog, where we’ll be posting all the latest news and updates.

Lucy Thackray13 January 2022 07:35

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Travel news live: France expected to lift UK travel ban imminently

Expectations are building that France may imminently announce it is lifting the blanket ban on British travellers.

Speculation, already rife, was further fuelled last night when French politician Alexandre Holroyd tweeted: “Following numerous discussions with the Government, considerable reductions in health measures at the borders will be announced very soon.

“More details here in the coming days.”

The cryptic tweet followed several holiday companies telling customers they believed the French ban on all Brits, barring those with a handful of “compelling” reasons for travel, was about to be scrapped.

London firm Skiline.co.uk has sent out a marketing email saying: “We are expecting the French government to make an announcement this Wednesday to confirm that British vaccinated skiers can enter France from this Saturday 15 January.”

Two key meetings are happening in France this morning, at which it is hoped restrictions may be eased: one for the defence council, following by another with the council of ministers.

Follow the latest updates below:


Ryanair claims to be a ‘Ghostbuster’ and demands seats on empty flights are sold at low fares

After the Lufthansa Group revealed that it would operate 18,000 empty flights this winter purely to hang on to airport slots, arch-rival Ryanair has demanded that seats on these so-called “ghost flights” are sold at low fares.

Under “use it or lose it” rules, airlines must give up rights to take off and land if they are not sufficiently utilised.

Ryanair’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, said: “The solution to Lufthansa’s ‘ghost flights’ problem is a simple one – just sell these seats to consumers.

“If Lufthansa really needs to operate these flights, solely to prevent the release of these slots to competitor airlines, then they should be required to sell these seats to the public at low fares.

“Slots are the way it blocks competition and limits choice at big hub airports like Frankfurt, Brussels Zaventem, Vienna, among others.

“Ryanair again calls on the European Commission to force Lufthansa and other state-subsidised airlines to release slots that they do not wish to use, so that low-fare ‘Ghostbusters’ like Ryanair, among others, can offer choice, competition, and lower fares at these hub airports.”

Simon Calder12 January 2022 10:31


Train cancellations due to Omicron rise

Faced with staff shortages due to workers self-isolating, train operators are cancelling increasingly many services.
TransPennine Express, which is already running a reduced timetable, has today cancelled or curtailed a further 18 trains.

Six of the cancellations are on the core route from Liverpool via Manchester, Leeds and York to Newcastle. Others are from York to Manchester Airport and to Scarborough.

“Further short-notice cancellations and amendments to services are likely throughout the day,” the operator warns.

Many other rail firms are running reduced services in line with the slump in passenger demand.

Simon Calder12 January 2022 10:25


Last-minute bookings beating summer holidays

Holiday bookings have risen steeply since last weekend, when expensive and onerous UK testing rules introduced because of the Omicron variant of coronavirus were eased.

But almost one-third of travel agent sales are for trips within the next four weeks, while just 7 per cent are for holidays in July and August respectively.

Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of the Advantage Travel Partnership, told The Independent: “Confidence to book to travel within the next few weeks is growing, with around 30 per cent of all sales for travel within the next four weeks.”

Simon Calder12 January 2022 10:13


Sharp increases in Covid cases as Omicron surge continues

“The last 24 hours saw the most positive tests ever seen around the world,” says Tim White, the Covid data analyst who tweets as @TWMCLtd.

He writes: “2.81m people confirmed to have contracted the disease yesterday.

“Norway confirms 9,622 new Covid-19 cases, beating the previous high set six days ago by 1,237.

“Bulgaria also hitting unwanted new heights in terms of Covid-19 infections: 7,062 cases, 13 per cent higher than last Wednesday.”

For the US, Mr White estimates “a 20 per cent chance the all time record will be broken tonight”.

With seven states left to report, there were more than 670,000 new cases overnight.

“Meanwhile it looks like CDC [the US health regulator] will either mandate or recommend use of medical masks,” he writes.

Simon Calder12 January 2022 10:06


UK companies selling French ski holidays for next week

Twenty-five days after France abruptly closed its frontiers to British visitors, anticipation is growing that the travel ban on the UK will soon end. One ski operator is so confident that it is selling winter sports trips for the coming weekend.

The south-east London firm Skiline.co.uk has sent out a marketing email saying: “We are expecting the French government to make an announcement this Wednesday to confirm that British vaccinated skiers can enter France from this Saturday 15 January.”

It is selling one-week holidays to Tignes in the French Alps departing from London Heathrow on Saturday for £799, including flights, transfers and fully catered accommodation.

“If the announcement is made as we expect, you will be one of the few lucky skiers in France this weekend,” the company says.

Skiline promises: “If no announcement is made this Wednesday, we will refund your credit card before this Friday.”

Simon Calder12 January 2022 09:55


Good morning, and welcome to The Independent’s travel liveblog. We’ll be bringing you all the latest updates throughout the day.

Helen Coffey12 January 2022 09:54

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Biden to lift African travel ban; Omicron COVID surge cancels flights


The Biden administration will lift its temporary travel ban on eight countries in southern Africa on Dec. 31, said Kevin Munoz, White House assistant press secretary, in a tweet Friday.

The restrictions were implemented to slow the spread of the omicron variant in the United States, and they applied to South Africa – where omicron was first detected – as well as Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Most noncitizens who have been in those countries within the past 14 days have not been allowed to enter the U.S. 

The news comes after other countries, including Canada, dropped similar travel restrictions. President Joe Biden said earlier this week he was considering reversing the restrictions the U.S. enacted in late November shortly after lifting bans against dozens of other countries.

“We put the travel ban on just to see how much time we had before it hit here so we can begin to decide what we needed by looking at what’s happening in other countries,” Biden said during an address to the nation Tuesday. “But we’re past that now.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still advises against travel to the eight countries since they are considered to have “very high” COVID-19 risk. 

Also in the news:

►Travelers with last-minute holiday flights this year are scrambling to find new flights as two major U.S. airlines, Delta and United, have canceled hundreds of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day flights. They cite crew shortages due to sick calls from the fast spreading omicron variant and weather in pockets of the country.

►Federal officials on Thursday loosened isolation requirements for health care workers who test positive in an effort to prevent staffing shortages. New guidance from the CDC says health care workers can come back to work seven days after testing negative and don’t have symptoms. Previously, they were required to be isolated for 10 days.

► COVID-19 cases are continuing to emerge on cruise ships. Among the latest outbreaks: MSC Seashore, which was scheduled to disembark passengers Thursday, sailed with 28 passengers who tested positive for COVID-19.

► Omicron, in a matter of a few weeks, pushed the United States to report cases faster than the delta variant took months to build up to. The nation reported more than a quarter-million cases on Wednesday alone, preliminary reports from Johns Hopkins University show. That makes Wednesday’s count at least the fifth-worst single day’s reporting of the entire pandemic.

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 51 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 815,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 278 million cases and 5.3 million deaths. More than 204 million Americans – 61.7% –  are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC

📘 What we’re reading: New treatments against COVID-19 are coming – including a pair of antiviral pills, one from Pfizer and one from Merck. Will they help combat the omicron onslaught? Read the full story.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s free Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

A recent study by South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases suggests those infected with the omicron variant of the coronavirus are at reduced risks of hospitalization and severe disease compared to those infected with the delta variant.

The new study, which has not been peer-reviewed, indicated that people diagnosed with the omicron variant were 80% less likely to be hospitalized than those diagnosed with other strains. But researchers also cautioned that at least some of this reduction is likely a result of high population immunity in the country.

A recent survey in Gauteng, the first South African province in which the omicron variant was identified, found 72% of the population had a previous coronavirus infection, according to Shabir Madhi, a vaccinologist at the University of the Witwatersrand. 

The rapid spread of the omicron coronavirus variant has prompted flights to be canceled, events to be scaled back and sports stars to be sidelined as the nation celebrates the holidays amid a new wave of infections clouded by uncertainty. 

More than 500 flights have been canceled on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, with United and Delta partially blaming the omicron variant

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday that the city’s iconic New Year’s Eve Times Square celebration will be scaled back. And the NFL continues to deal with COVID-19 fallout during its first week of new protocols. Dozens of players have been added to the reserve list in the past few days, including several big names. 

The disruptions may mark a new phase of the pandemic, where health officials are increasingly signaling that many, if not most, Americans will become infected in coming months. But large swaths of the population appear to be well protected from severe illness through vaccines, especially the 64 million people who have received a booster dose.

After Amanda Wilson lost her 15-year-old son, Braden, to COVID-19 early this year, she tried to honor his memory. But in one area, she hit a brick wall: attempting to force change at the California hospital where she believes her son contracted COVID-19 in December 2020.

While seeking treatment for a bleeding cyst, Braden was surrounded for hours by coughing patients in the emergency room, Wilson said. Yet, she has been unable to get the hospital to show her improvements it told her it made or get a lawyer to take her case.

“I was pretty shocked,” Wilson said. “There’s truly no recourse.”

A previous Kaiser Health News investigation documented that more than 10,000 people tested positive for COVID-19 after they were hospitalized for something else in 2020. Yet many others, including Braden Wilson, are not counted in those numbers because they were discharged before testing positive. Still, the KHN findings are the only nationally publicly available data showing rates of patients who tested positive for COVID after admission into individual U.S. hospitals. Read more here. 

— Lauren Weber and Christina Jewett, Kaiser Health News

Testing requirements are nothing new in the age of COVID-19, but travelers are finding it more difficult – and more expensive – to visit certain domestic destinations amid the latest testing shortage. 

Puerto Rico resident Sarah Molinari was looking forward to spending time in New York this week to catch up with family and celebrate the holidays. What she didn’t see coming were the hours spent scrolling through COVID-19 testing center websites to make sure she could fly home Tuesday. 

While traveling to the U.S. territory used to be a breeze for Molinari and other vaccinated travelers, that changes Monday when Puerto Rico starts requiring all travelers to test negative for COVID-19 before arriving. 

The new rule comes as the U.S. finds itself in the midst of yet another coronavirus test shortage, with consumers facing limited sales at retailers and long lines at testing centers. Read more here.

A day after authorizing the first antiviral pill to treat COVID-19, the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday authorized a second: Merck’s molnupiravir.

The prescription medication, which can be taken at home, is designed to stop the progression of COVID-19 from mild to severe symptoms in people at high risk. In data presented to an FDA advisory panel in late November, the drug was shown to prevent 30% of infections from progressing – far fewer than Pfizer’s antiviral Paxlovid, which the FDA authorized on Wednesday.

Molnupiravir, produced also by Ridgeback Biotherapeutics should be given within five days of COVID-19 symptoms beginning and should only be given to adults because it may affect bone and cartilage growth, the FDA noted. The drug is not recommended for use during pregnancy because animal studies suggest it may damage the fetus.

Several doctors told USA TODAY that they would only prescribe molnupiravir if they had no other alternative, and the FDA seemed to echo that by noting in its authorization announcement that the drug is to be used by people at high risk for severe disease “for whom alternative COVID-19 treatment options authorized by the FDA are not accessible or clinically appropriate.” Read more here.

– Karen Weintraub, USA TODAY

Testing positive for COVID-19 starts a confusing, disruptive and at times frightening process – one that millions of Americans will likely go through in coming weeks as the omicron variant rapidly spreads this holiday season.

First, you need to isolate. That’s a more intense version of quarantining – it means cutting off contact with other people as much as possible, so that you reduce your chances of infecting them. It also means forgoing travel, not going to work and even limiting contact with people in your own household who aren’t infected.

The CDC says it’s a necessary step whether you’re vaccinated or unvaccinated; showing symptoms or feeling fine.

Everyone who tests positive for COVID-19 should also monitor their symptoms. And people who are unvaccinated or at high risk for severe disease should be extra vigilant for symptoms that might require emergency care. Call your doctor for early treatment options.

How long should you isolate? How long will I be contagious? What if you are a close contact with someone who tested positive? Here’s what you should know about omicron and COVID this holiday season.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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US to lift travel ban on 8 southern African countries

The White House says the U.S. will lift travel restrictions to eight southern African countries on New Year’s Eve

WASHINGTON — The U.S. will lift travel restrictions to eight southern African countries on New Year’s Eve, the White House announced Friday.

The restrictions, imposed last month, were meant to blunt the spread of the COVID omicron variant.

The Nov. 29 ban barred nearly all non-U.S. citizens who had recently been in South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.

White House spokesman Kevin Munoz said on Twitter that the decision was recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Munoz said the temporary travel bans bought scientists necessary time to study the new virus variant and conclude that the current vaccinations are effective in blunting its impact.

Omicron is now spreading rapidly throughout the U.S., including among the vaccinated, but a huge majority of those being hospitalized are unvaccinated.

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Canada’s Trudeau says Omicron spike ‘scary,’ Ottawa to lift Africa travel ban

A nurse performs a wellness check of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patient inside the intensive care unit of Humber River Hospital in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

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OTTAWA, Dec 17 (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday said a spike in cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant was “scary,” while the country’s top medical official made clear the healthcare system could soon be swamped.

COVID-19 case numbers are rapidly increasing in Canada, with several of the 10 provinces reporting big jumps as Omicron replaces Delta as the dominant variant.

“I know the record numbers we’re seeing in parts of the country are scary – but I also know we can get through this,” Trudeau tweeted, urging Canadians to get vaccinated and keep their distance from other people.

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Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos earlier urged provinces to impose more public health measures, and said Canada would once again require people returning home after foreign trips of less than 72 hours to produce a negative test. Tour operators say the measure is onerous and deters travel.

“We’re not in a popularity contest here,” Duclos said, describing the situation as “dramatic and critical.”

Chief medical officer Theresa Tam said that if Omicron did become the dominant variant, “the sheer number of cases could inundate the health system in a very short period of time”.

Duclos also said Canada would lift a ban on travelers from 10 African countries that was imposed last month and reiterated government advice that residents avoid international travel. read more

Critics said the ban on people who had recently been to South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt and seven other nations made no sense given the rapid spread of Omicron.

“While we recognize the controversial nature of such a prohibition, we believe it was a necessary measure to slow the arrival of Omicron in Canada and buy us some time,” Duclos said.

Britain made a similar announcement on Tuesday, citing community transmission of Omicron. read more

The provinces of Ontario and Quebec, which together make up around 60% of Canada’s population, this week both reimposed restrictions on public gatherings.

In its second installment of curbs announced this week, Ontario said Friday that the capacity limit on indoor public places such as restaurants, gyms, and shopping malls would be capped at 50% from Sunday.

The province also put a limit of 10 people for informal social gatherings indoors and 25 people outdoors.

“I know this is not the situation any of us wanted to be in, especially during the holiday season, but it’s clear Omicron will not take a holiday,” said Ontario’s chief medical officer Kieran Moore.

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Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Aadditional reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru, Steve Scherer in Ottawa and Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Alistair Bell

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Fauci: U.S. reviewing its South African travel ban and hopes to lift it soon

The medical adviser added that Omicron is becoming the dominant variant in South Africa, though he noted that there’s no current evidence that the new variant causes more severe illness than previously detected Covid-19 variants.

“Thus far, though it’s too early to really make any definitive statements about it, thus far, it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it,” Fauci said, tempering the remarks by saying it’s too soon to make determinations about Omicron.

“We feel certain,” he added, that booster shots and vaccines provide protection against the new variant.

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