Argentina's government on Monday imposed a mandatory 10-day quarantine period for everyone arriving to the country from Africa, as the new Omicron Covid-19 variant prompted border closures and new restrictions across the globe.
G7 health ministers held an emergency meeting Monday to discuss the spread of Omicron. Called by G7 chair Britain, which is among a steadily growing number of countries detecting cases of the heavily mutated new strain, the summit ended with a call for "urgent action."
The Omicron discovery has sparked a frenzy of travel restrictions across the world. A growing list of countries have already imposed travel curbs on southern Africa, including key travel hub Qatar, the United States, Britain, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Netherlands. On Monday, Angola became the first southern African country to suspend all flights from its regional neighbours Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa.
Argentina joined those nations in introducing new restrictions on Monday, imposing a mandatory 10-day period of isolation for all individuals who "arrive from or have been in the African continent or in the affected areas defined by the national health authority in the last FOURTEEN (14) days prior to their entry into the country."
As well having as a negative PCR test taken 72 hours prior to departure, all arrivals to Argentina will be required to take another Covid-19 test at their entry point and take a third and final test upon completion of the mandatory isolation period, the national government said in the Official Gazette.
Omicron, first discovered in southern Africa, represents a fresh challenge to global efforts to battle the pandemic.
"We know we are now in a race against time," said European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Monday. Vaccine manufacturers needed two to three weeks "to get a full picture of the quality of the mutations," she added.
Omicron is highly transmissible and requires "urgent action," G7 health ministers said Monday after their meeting, while praising South Africa's "exemplary work" for both detecting the strain and alerting others to it.
"The global community is faced with the threat of a new, at a first evaluation, highly transmissible variant of Covid-19, which requires urgent action," the health ministers said in a statement following an emergency meeting.
Underlining the "strategic relevance of ensuring access to vaccines", they pledged to hold to their donation commitments, as well as to provide support to research and development.
At the same time, they will tackle "vaccine misinformation," something that has in parts of the world led to resistance against inoculation.
A new meeting will be held in December, they said, committing to work closely together with the World Health Organisation and international partners to share information on Omicron.
Scientists in South Africa said they had last week detected the new variant with at least 10 mutations, compared with three for Beta or two for Delta – the strain that hit the global recovery and sent millions worldwide back into lockdown.