Canada lifts travel ban on Egypt, 9 other African countries over Omicron fears

Zeinab El-Gundy , Saturday 18 Dec 2021

Canada’s Federal government lifted on Friday its travel ban on 10 African countries including Egypt while it reimposes for Canadians taking short trips abroad to get a Covid-19 test before returning back to the country over Coronavirus’ Omicron variant spread fear.

Toronto Pearson Airport s Terminal 3  Reuters)
A file photo of United States-bound passengers walking in Toronto Pearson Airport s Terminal 3, days before new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing protocols to enter the U.S. come into effect, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada (Photo : Reuters)

Canadian Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos announced at a Friday press conference in Ottawa that the travel ban imposed on 10 African countries since late November would be lifted effective 18 December at 11:59 p.m. ET.

The decision to impose the travel ban on Egypt, South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, Namibia, Nigeria and Malawi drew huge criticism of the Canadian government as the Omicron variant spread to over 77 countries including countries in the west.

“While we recognize that this initial emergency measure created controversy, we believe it was a necessary measure to slow the arrival of Omicron in Canada at a time of uncertainty,” Jean-Yves Duclos said at the press conference adding that given the current situation in Canada this measure has served its purpose and “is no longer necessary.”

A number of Egyptian MPs expressed their dismay towards the Canadian decision to impose a travel ban on Egypt and other 9 African countries over Omicron variant concerns.

In a statement before parliament in early December, Karim Darwish, the head of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee asked Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry to consult with the ambassador of Canada on the reason for including Egypt in the travel list.

Egypt’s flagship carrier EgyptAir suspended its direct flights to Toronto in early December over that travel ban.

The decision of Canada to include Egypt in its travel ban over Omicron cases when the country officially did not record a single case of the variant locally was taken following the decision of Switzerland to place five countries including Egypt on its 10-days quarantine list and oblige travelers from those countries to present negative (PCR) results.

In early December, Switzerland removed Egypt and other countries from the list.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for countries to keep calm and take "rational, proportional risk-reduction measures” in response to the new, fast-spreading variant.

The Egyptian Health Ministry announced on Friday that it recorded officially its first three Omicron variant cases for travelers who return back to the country and were discovered at Cairo International Airport.

The three patients are currently in quarantine at a Cairo-isolation hospital.

Canada’s health minister announced on Friday that his country requires Canadians and permanent residents who travel abroad for short trips “less than 70 hours” to get a negative Covid-19 (PCR) test before returning to Canada starting from 21 December.

The travelers must take the test in a country other than Canada, he said.

According to Canadian media, this rule was dropped in November.

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