Italy bans visitors from southern Africa over new Covid variant
Italy on Friday banned entry to travellers coming from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini and Malawi due to fears over a new coronavirus variant.
The ban applies to those who have been in the eight southern African countries in the past two weeks and lasts until December 15, a ministry statement said, adding that air traffic was also banned from the region.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza said scientists were studying the new B.1.1.529 variant, which has a large number of mutations and was first detected in South Africa.
“In the meantime, we will follow the path of maximum caution,” Speranza said.
Italian citizens resident in Italy, their spouses and children are exempt from the ban, although they must take a Covid-19 test before arriving in Italy and complete 10 days of quarantine.
Those already in Italy who have been in the named countries in the last 14 days must also get tested and spend 10 days in quarantine.
Italy’s move comes despite the World Health Organization (WHO) cautioning against imposing travel restrictions.
The WHO on Friday said it would take weeks to understand the implications of the newly discovered strain.
Germany and Britain have also banned most travel from South Africa as governments scramble to prevent the spread of the new Covid-19 variant.