The Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) has suggested the Ministry of Transport seeking approval from the Prime Minister for halting flights from ten African countries amid concerns over the new coronavirus variant Omicron.
In an attempt to prevent the new strain Omicron from penetrating into Vietnam, the CAAV on Friday proposed suspension of all flights from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Angola and Zambia.
At the same time, an entry ban should be imposed on passengers with travel history to these African countries within 30 days before entering Vietnam, the CAAV said.
The Ministry of Health should issue specific instructions on medical control for passengers coming from countries where Omicron has appeared, such as South Korea and Japan, the agency recommended.
In addition, all international passengers from such countries must be placed in quarantine upon entry into Vietnam.
The Ministry of Public Security should strengthen management to detect any people entering the country by air from Omicron-hit countries, and notify such entries, if any, to health authorities, the CAAV said.
In line with the latest recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) on Wednesday issued a new global bulletin urging "a more measured and evidence-based approach to countries’ national air transport restrictions due to the emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant."
Until more detailed assessments on the Omicron variant are available, countries are encouraged to continue combatting the spread of COVID-19, and specifically the Omicron variant, using the ICAO’s relevant recommendations and guidance, it said in a press release.
Vietnam’s Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh on November 29 issued a document directing agencies concerned to strengthen control of entries into the country to detect and prevent the penetration of the new coronavirus variant Omicron.
Since hitting the Southeast Asian country in early last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused 1,280,780 patients, including 1,006,459 recoveries and 25,858 deaths, the health ministry reported.
Malaysia and Singapore have become the first two nations in Southeast Asia to detect the first cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
In Malaysia, the variant was identified in a 19-year-old girl who had arrived from South Africa via Singapore on November 19, The Strait Times cited Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin as saying in a briefing on Friday.
The girl, a university student in Ipoh, Perak, had completed her COVID-19 vaccination and been quarantined for ten days before being released on November 29.
On Thursday, the Singapore Ministry of Health detected two imported cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, both of whom have been isolated, Reuters reported.
“Contact tracing was ongoing for passengers on the same flight as those infected, and there was no evidence of community transmission,” the ministry said in a statement.
To date, the worrying variant Omicron has appeared in many countries and regions around the world, such as the U.S., Finland, Greece, Sweden, Spain, Portugal, Canada, the UK, Germany, France, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Italy, Israel, Hong Kong (China), Botswana, Japan and South Korea, among others.
The new variant was first detected in southern Africa last month and dubbed a "variant of concern" by WHO.
Currently, scientists are still gathering data to establish how contagious Omicron is, and the severity of the illness it causes.
“Border controls can buy time but every country and every community must prepare for new surges in cases,” Takeshi Kasai, WHO regional director for the western Pacific, was quoted by Reuters as saying at a virtual media briefing.
“People should not only rely on border measures. What is most important is to prepare for these variants with potential high transmissibility. So far, the information available suggests we don't have to change our approach,” Kasai said.