Despite widespread travel restrictions, the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 – first identified in South Africa – has now been detected in at least 20 countries.
The spread of the variant shows how difficult it is to stop cases from crossing borders. Some of those diagnosed have been infected for some time – one Italian man, for example, moved around his country for days before being diagnosed.
Most of the reported cases are in people who had recently travelled abroad. It is likely that the strain is present in many more countries, but has not yet been picked up by virus sequencing.
While 13 out of the 20 nations currently affected by the Omicron variant are in Europe, travellers from the continent are not currently being singled out by other nations. Israel, Morocco and Japan have restricted all foreign travellers, while India has imposed a ban on European travellers (along with people from several other nations).
That is in stark contrast to South Africa, which has been hit by increased travel restrictions from at least 34 states, leading President Cyril Ramaphosa to condemn the bans and call on nations to reverse them.
Spain, Switzerland and India are among those who have tightened restrictions for UK travellers. The UK’s total Omicron cases stand at 14, after three more were identified in Scotland today (30 November).