File Photo: Switzerland launches COVID-19 certificate. AFP
Passengers flying to Switzerland from the United Kingdom, the Netherland, the Czech Republic, Egypt and Malawi must present a negative COVID-19 test and undergo quarantine for 10 days, the Swiss health ministry announced on Saturday.
The new decision comes amidst official confirmation in Egypt that no cases of the new variant have been detected until now.
The World Health Organization has named the new "variant of concern" Omicron, first surfaced in South Africa, and scientists are racing to understand it and whether vaccines need adjustments.
Switzerland banned Friday direct flights from South Africa and the surrounding region, announcing restrictions on travel from other countries, including Hong Kong, Israel and Belgium.
The new contagious variant has already reached Asia and Europe, with cases detected in the UK, Italy, Germany and Belgium, in addition to Hong Kong.
Europe's first case of the variant was discovered in Belgium on Friday, with Belgian virologist Mark Van Ranst announcing in a tweet that the variant was detected in "a returning traveller from Egypt".
Egypt stressed the circulated tweet is unconfirmed and lacks documentation. Spokesman for the Egyptian Ministry of Health Hossam Abdel-Gaffar said in a televised statement on Saturday that no official statement was released from the Belgian government or the World Health Organization indicating Egypt's relation to the detected case.
Furthermore, Egypt's acting Health Minister Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar said in a TV comment on Saturday that no cases of the new variant have been detected in the country so far, stressing that the country has raised the level of the preparedness to address the new variant.
Egypt has tightened up the pandemic related safety measures at its ports due to the mounting concerns over the Omicron variant, suspending direct flights with South Africa, and imposing travel restrictions on passengers flying indirectly to Cairo from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Eswatini, Mozambique and Lesotho.
Passengers coming from those countries to Cairo as a final destination through transit flights or stopping at Cairo International Airport as a transit point before reaching their final destination will take a rapid test.
Egypt has recorded a total of 355,767 coronavirus infections so far, including 20,305 and the total number of recoveries 295,434.