Govt bans entry of African nationals over new variant of coronavirus

This image shows the building of the Ministry of Health and Population in Ramshahpath, Kathmandu, in May 2021. Photo courtesy: Ajay Sharma

KATHMANDU: The Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) on Sunday decided to bar nationals from all African countries from entering the country, for the time being, citing the threat posed by the new Omicron coronavirus variant.

“Considering the high risks from the new variant of the coronavirus, we instructed our immigration offices on Sunday not to allow citizens of all the African countries, except those with official or diplomatic passports, to enter the country with immediate effect,” MoHP Spokesperson Phanindramani Pokharel said.

“Initially we instructed them verbally, and it will be formalised soon,” he said, adding the ministry has not set any deadline for the new rule as the threat of the new variant is being examined globally.

The World Health Organisation on Friday declared the latest variant B.1.1.529 of SARS-CoV-2, first identified in South Africa, to be “of concern,” its most serious level, and officially gave it the Greek name Omicron.

In September, the government reopened the on-arrival visa service for foreign tourists fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with a view to reviving the tourism sector.

Pokharel made asserted that even vaccinated tourists from African countries will not be allowed to enter Nepal for the time being. “African nationals who have already received Nepal’s visas from Nepali embassies abroad will not be allowed either,” he said.

Currently, Nepal has neither any direct air links with African countries nor has it received any large number of African tourists.

Pokharel said no decision has been made on Nepali nationals and citizens of non-African countries who arrive in the country via Africa.

Nepal has been hit twice by the coronavirus, but it has seen daily new infections declining in recent months.

Source: RSS/Xinhua

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