The Omicron Covid variant was first reported by South Africa on November 24. (File)Ottawa:
Canada on Friday announced restrictions on travel from seven African countries over concerns about the spread of a new Covid-19 strain.
The measures will impact travel from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos announced in a news conference, making Canada one of a raft countries to implement similar rules on Friday.
"We are acting quickly in order to protect the health and safety of Canadians," Duclos said.
Earlier Friday, the World Health Organization declared the recently discovered B.1.1.529 strain of Covid-19 to be a "variant of concern," renaming it Omicron.
"We know very little about this variant right now, including how transmissible it is and whether it increases severity of illness or what the impact is on the vaccine," Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam warned.
"But because of so many mutations in specific areas of the genome, we're taking this precautionary measure," she said.
There are no direct flights to Canada from the seven nations listed in the new restrictions.
Canadian travelers arriving indirectly from the region will be required to obtain a pre-flight negative Covid-19 test and quarantine for 14 days on arrival in the country.
The measures will be in place until January 31, while officials "assess the evolving situation," said Transport Minister Omar Alghabra.
The Omicron variant was first reported to the WHO by South Africa on November 24.
It has since also been detected in Israel in a person returning from Malawi, and in Botswana, Belgium and Hong Kong.
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