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New Covid-19 variant: Travellers from 7 African countries to be barred from entering S'pore; will face tighter restrictions

SINGAPORE — Travellers who have recently travelled to seven African countries, including South Africa and Botswana, will face new restrictions in light of a new, potentially more contagious coronavirus variant circulating in those countries.

Long-term pass holders and short-term visitors who have a travel history to Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe within the last 14 days will not be allowed to enter Singapore, even if they have obtained prior approvals.

Long-term pass holders and short-term visitors who have a travel history to Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe within the last 14 days will not be allowed to enter Singapore, even if they have obtained prior approvals.

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SINGAPORE — Travellers who have recently travelled to seven African countries, including South Africa and Botswana, will face new restrictions in light of a new, potentially more contagious coronavirus variant circulating in those countries. 

The Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a statement on Friday (Nov 26) that long-term pass holders and short-term visitors who have a travel history to Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe within the last 14 days will not be allowed to enter Singapore, even if they have obtained prior approvals. 

Singapore citizens and permanent residents who have travelled to these African nations within the last 14 days will have to quarantine themselves for 10 days at dedicated facilities. 

The new restrictions for Covid-19 will begin on ​​Saturday at 11.59pm. 

Currently, travellers from South Africa are required to serve a seven-day stay-home notice period at their declared place of accommodation, while those travelling from the other six countries must quarantine for 10 days at dedicated facilities.

In addition to heightened restrictions for travellers from these countries, South Africa, which was previously a Category II country in Singapore's Covid-19 risk classification, will be moved to Category IV, which is for countries assessed to be of the highest risk. The other six countries are already classified under Category IV.  

MOH said that there had been recent reports of a “potentially more contagious” variant of the Sars-Cov-2 virus that causes Covid-19, called the B.1.1529 variant, which may be circulating in these African nations.  

South African scientists said on Thursday that they had detected a new virus strain in small numbers and are working to understand its potential implications. 

They also said that the variant has a "very unusual constellation" of mutations, which are of concern because the mutations could help it evade the human body's immune response and make it more transmissible.

MOH said on Friday that scientists around the world are investigating the new variant and assessing if it is more transmissible than the Delta variant, if it is likely to lead to severe illnesses and what the efficacy of existing vaccines is against this strain. 

It added that while the variant has been suggested to be more transmissible, there is not enough evidence to determine if it is associated with any change in disease severity, antibody response or vaccine efficacy. 

Singapore has no cases of this variant now, it said.  

Speaking to the media at a virtual press conference on Friday, Transport Minister S Iswaran said that out of the seven countries, only South Africa has direct air travel links with Singapore, with one flight arriving every day. 

“Even then, the volumes are very low, most of them are transit passengers going on to other destinations,” he said, adding that only about 10 passengers a day enter Singapore from South Africa. 

MOH said that the heightened restrictions will apply for four weeks in the first instance, after which they will be reviewed and extended if necessary.  

Any changes to border measures will be updated on the SafeTravel website, which travellers are advised to visit to check for the latest border measures associated with the respective country or region they are at before entering Singapore. 

Related topics

Covid-19 coronavirus variant Africa South Africa Botswana MOH

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