Canada announced Friday the lifting of a ban on foreign travelers from 10 African countries, while re-imposing testing and warning that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 risks quickly overwhelming hospitals.
The travel restriction on flights from South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, Namibia, Nigeria, Malawi and Egypt will end at 11:59 pm on Saturday (0459 GMT Sunday), the country’s Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos told a news conference.
The restriction had been announced last month “to slow the arrival of Omicron in Canada and buy us some time,” he said. But with Omicron now spreading within Canada it is “no longer needed.”
Pre-arrival negative PCR tests for all travelers would also be reinstated as of December 21, Duclos added, while repeating a government warning earlier this week that “now is not the time to travel.”
Officials said laboratory tests have confirmed as of Friday nearly 350 cases of the Omicron variant across Canada.
The total average daily COVID case count, meanwhile, has jumped by 45 percent in the past week to about 5,000.
“It is expected the sheer number of (Omicron) cases could inundate the health system in a very short period of time,” said Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam.