Malaysia bans travellers from countries deemed Omicron risks

Malaysia bans travellers from countries deemed Omicron risks

Passengers wearing personal protective equipment queue to check-in for their flight at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang on Monday, as countries across the globe shut borders and renewed travel curbs in response to the spread of a new, heavily mutated Covid-19 coronavirus variation dubbed Omicron. (AFP photo)
Passengers wearing personal protective equipment queue to check-in for their flight at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang on Monday, as countries across the globe shut borders and renewed travel curbs in response to the spread of a new, heavily mutated Covid-19 coronavirus variation dubbed Omicron. (AFP photo)

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has temporarily banned the entry of travellers from countries that have reported the Omicron Covid-19 variant or are considered high-risk, its health minister said on Wednesday.

The neighbouring country joins Thailand and others around the world that have limited travel from southern Africa, where the variant, believed to be the most contagious yet, was first detected.

The travel ban applies to eight African countries, including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi, but could be extended to other nations where the variant has been detected, such as Britain and the Netherlands, health minister Khairy Jamaluddin said.

Malaysia will also delay plans to set up so-called Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTL) with the affected countries, and reimpose quarantine requirements for Malaysian citizens and long-term residents returning from those nations, regardless of their vaccination status.

"These are just temporary measures until we find out more about the Omicron variant," Khairy said.

"The moment we believe it is safe, we will lift these measures."

Malaysia, which has reported more than 2.6 million coronavirus cases, has gradually reopened its borders to travellers in recent weeks as infections have slowed amid a high vaccination rate.

Earlier this week, Malaysia and Singapore launched a two-way joint VTL, reopening their border after nearly two years during the pandemic.

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