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Turkey bans travel from 5 African countries over new COVID-19 variant

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Turkey has imposed a ban on travel from five African countries after the emergence of a new coronavirus variant, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said in a statement late Friday.

“Travel from Botswana, Republic of South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe to our country through all our land, air, sea and rail border crossings will not be allowed as of tonight,” Koca said on Twitter.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the new COVID-19 strain from southern Africa a “variant of concern,” naming it Omicron.

The United Kingdom has also suspended flights from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, whereas Eyropean Union member states have agreed to introduce rapid restrictions on all travel from these countries as well as Mozambique.

Koca recently stated that Turkey does not intend to implement any further lockdowns or closures to manage the pandemic’s reach, instead placing “great importance on individual precautions … particularly vaccinations,” as he answered questions from the press after the Cabinet meeting at the Presidential Complex.

Europe is on the verge of another shutdown with many countries already announcing new lockdown measures. When asked about whether new restrictions and measures were on the agenda in Turkey, Koca stated that no such steps were planned.

“In the new period in Turkey, we do not plan to manage the pandemic with closures. In the new period, we attach great importance to personal precautions and especially vaccination,” Koca said and added, “We think that it is very important for everyone to be vaccinated.”

When asked about the progress of the antiviral pill, molnupiravir, which is set to be used to treat COVID-19 patients, Koca noted that many drugs were used during the pandemic and that their efficacies would become clearer with time.

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