Japan will close to all foreign travellers from Tuesday, in a bid to slow the spread of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19.
It means the country will restore border controls it had only eased earlier this month for short-term business visitors, foreign students and workers.
First detected by researchers in southern Africa, much is still not known about B.1.1.529 but there are fears it could be more contagious than other variants – and more resistant to vaccines.
Israel is considering whether to completely shut its borders. File pic
Global concern about the new strain is growing, with countries confirming cases for the first time and travel restrictions being imposed once again.
Noting that the variant has already been detected in many countries and that closing borders often has limited effect, the World Health Organisation called for frontiers to remain open.
Here are the latest COVID-19 developments around the world.
The Japanese government has announced it will close its borders to all foreigners from Tuesday.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said: “We are responding to the Omicron variant with a strong sense of urgency.”
Travel restrictions are being imposed once again as governments suspend flights from southern Africa
Over the weekend, Japan had tightened entry restrictions for people arriving from South Africa and eight other countries, requiring them to undergo a 10-day quarantine period.
On Saturday, Israel unveiled plans to ban all foreigners from entering the country, having already identified cases on home soil.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the ban would last for 14 days, if the proposals are approved.
So far, Israel has one confirmed case of the Omicron variant and seven suspected cases.
Phone-tracking technology is going to be used to locate carriers of the new variant, in an attempt to stop it being transmitted to others.
Dr Anthony Fauci said he ‘wouldn’t be surprised’ if the Omicron variant is already in the US. File pic
From Monday, the US is going to restrict travel from South Africa and seven other countries in the region.
American citizens and permanent US residents – along with spouses and close friends – will be exempt.
No cases linked to Omicron have been detected in the country so far.
But Dr Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease specialist, told NBC that he wouldn’t be surprised if the variant is already in the States, adding: “When you have a virus that is showing this degree of transmissibility… it almost invariably is ultimately going to go essentially all over.”
In separate developments, New York Governor Kathy Hochul issued a COVID-19 “disaster emergency” declaration on Friday, with infections and hospitalisations increasing in the state.
A business traveller from Italy caught the Omicron variant on a trip to Mozambique. File pic
France’s health ministry said on Sunday that it had detected eight possible cases of the Omicron variant, with the government saying it would tighten restrictions to contain its spread.
Canada has detected two cases of the Omicron variant in Ontario, authorities announced on Sunday.
Health officials Christine Elliott and Kieran Moore said in a joint statement that the cases were found in two people who had recently been in Nigeria.
Ontario has focused rapid COVID-19 testing on travellers who have been to South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
On Saturday, health officials confirmed that a case of the Omicron variant had been detected in Italy.
The business traveller had flown from Mozambique, landing in Rome on 11 November and returning to his home in Naples.
Five of his family members, including two children, have also tested positive. All are now isolating and have light symptoms.
Two confirmed cases of the Omicron variant have been detected in the southern state of Bavaria. File pic
The Omicron variant has also been detected in three travellers who arrived on a flight from South Africa on 24 November.
Two cases were detected in the southern state of Bavaria, the other in Hesse in the west of the country.
Germany, like other parts of Europe, was suffering under a new wave of cases before Omicron was detected.
Dutch officials are ‘almost certain’ that the Omicron variant is in the country
Dutch health officials have detected 61 COVID-19 cases among people who flew from South Africa – 13 of which are confirmed to be Omicron.
The Dutch health minister said it was possible that there were more cases of the new COVID variant in the country.
The KLM airline expressed surprise at the high number of cases because all passengers had either tested negative or shown proof of vaccination before boarding flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Authorities in the country are now attempting to contact 5,000 passengers who have travelled from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia or Zimbabwe since Monday.
Switzerland has banned direct flights from South Africa and the surrounding region
The first case of the variant has been discovered in Switzerland, the government announced late on Sunday as the country tightened its entry restrictions. The case relates to a person who returned from South Africa around a week ago.
Quarantine requirements have been widened to a greater number of travellers in an attempt to stem the spread of the Omicron variant.
Those arriving from 19 countries, including the UK, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Egypt and Malawi must prevent a negative COVID-19 test and isolate for 10 days on arrival.
Direct flights have already been banned from South Africa and the surrounding region.
Despite cases being detected in Italy and Germany, both neighbours of Switzerland, travel restrictions have not been imposed on any countries it shares borders with.
Spain is clamping down on unvaccinated Britons entering the country
From next month, British tourists will only be able to enter Spain if they can show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination.
Until now, unvaccinated travellers were allowed into the country if they could present a negative PCR test that was taken 72 hours before their arrival.
“The appearance of new variants causing (coronavirus) obliges an increase in restrictions,” the government said.
Spain’s Industry, Trade and Tourism department said approximately 300,000 British people who are resident in Spain will not be affected by the new measures.
All travellers arriving in the country will need to quarantine for at least seven days – with those arriving from southern Africa and Hong Kong having to self isolate for 14 days.
Indonesia is due to take over the presidency of the G20 on 1 December, and has said that delegates attending will not be affected by the restrictions.
A number of cases have been detected in Denmark
Two cases of Omicron have been identified in Denmark in two travellers who arrived from South Africa.
Henrik Ullum, director of the State Serum Institute, said: “This was to be expected, and our strategy is therefore to continue intensive monitoring of the infection in the country.”
The pair have been put in isolation, and contacts are being traced.
Two cases of Omicron have also been found in Australia, in the state of New South Wales.
Again, the pair involved were on a flight from southern Africa, both had been vaccinated and were asymptomatic. They are now isolating, and 260 other people on the flight are also in isolation.
Anyone arriving in the state from southern African countries, and the Seychelles, have been told they must isolate for 14 days.
Still, the nation plans to press ahead with plans to reopen borders to skilled migrants and students from 1 December.
New Zealand has announced it is restricting travel from nine southern African countries.
Tourist-dependent Thailand, which only recently began loosening its tight border restrictions to leisure travellers, has also announced a ban on visitors from eight African countries.
The country’s foreign ministry said it is suspending all incoming air travel from around the world from Monday for two weeks.
In a tweet, it said the move had been taken to “preserve the achievements realised by Morocco in the fight against the pandemic, and to protect the health of citizens”.
Original Article: news.sky.com
Man Trying to Cross Channel Dies in Sub-zero Conditions After Going Overboard
A manslaughter investigation is under way in France after a migrant died in sub-zero conditions while trying to cross the English Channel.
The Sudanese man was pulled from the water unconscious after going overboard in the early hours of Friday as he and others attempted to reach the UK.
Aged in his 20s, he was declared dead after being taken back to shore by French rescue teams.
Image: Rescued migrants were suffering from hypothermia
A total of 32 people were rescued off Berck, near Calais, suffering from hypothermia, authorities said.
The prosecutor in Boulogne-sur-Mer said a manslaughter investigation has been opened.
The fatality has been reported less than two months after at least 27 people died when their boat sank off the coast of France.
More than 450 people have already made the life-threatening trip in small boats in 2022.
In UK waters on Friday, multiple Border Force vessels were active off the Kent coast.
About 35 people were seen being brought to shore by immigration staff.
On Thursday, at least 271 people aboard 10 small boats reached England.
Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross, said there were “no simple answers” to the problem.
He added: “But we urge the government to rethink its plans for making the UK’s asylum system harder to access.
“This should start with ambitious plans for new safe routes and a commitment to resettle 10,000 people a year.”
Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights director, said the latest death was made “all the more unbearable because of the refusal of governments on both sides of the Channel to address the needs and rights of people compelled to attempt these dangerous journeys”.
Home Secretary Priti Patel has called for more co-operation with Europe in an effort to solve the issue.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “This tragic loss of life in France today is devastating and our thoughts are with the victim’s family and loved ones.
“It is sadly another reminder of the extreme dangers of crossing the Channel in small boats and of how vital it is that we work closely together with France to prevent people from making these dangerous crossings.
“The government’s New Plan for Immigration will fix the broken system to welcome people through safe and legal routes whilst preventing the criminality associated with it.”
Original Source: news.sky.com
Djokovic to Be Detained Again As Australia Cancels Tennis Star’s Visa
Novak Djokovic will be detained again in Australia from tomorrow morning after his lawyers appealed a decision by the country’s immigration minister to cancel his visa for a second time.
‘You need to be vaccinated to compete’
But he won a court appeal against the cancellation that allowed him to remain in the country.
At the time, the Australian government said it would continue to look at whether he could stay, which was a decision that was entirely at the discretion of immigration minister Alex Hawke.
He announced on Friday that the Serbian’s visa had been cancelled again, this time on public health grounds.
At a court hearing, Djokovic’s lawyers asked for an injunction to block his removal from the country, saying the reasons behind Mr Hawke’s decision are “patently irrational”.
Image: Djokovic was practising for the Australian Open on Friday morning
Djokovic will be free for Friday night but will be detained at 8am on Saturday morning after being interviewed at the Department for Home Affairs.
The 34-year-old will then be able to spend time with his lawyers to prepare for his case but will be taken back into detention on Saturday night.
His legal team are pushing for a hearing to take place on Sunday, in the hope of a decision being made ahead of the Australian Open.
Mr Hawke said he made his judgement after “carefully” considering information from the Department of Home Affairs, the Australian Border Force and from Djokovic.
“Today I exercised my power under section 133C(3) of the Migration Act to cancel the visa held by Mr Novak Djokovic on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so,” he said in a statement.
“The Morrison government is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added, referring to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
‘This is not over yet’, says Djokovic’s mum
Under the section of the Migration Act used by the minister, Djokovic will not be able to secure a visa to come to Australia for three years, except in compelling circumstances that affect the country’s interest.
Commenting on the decision, Mr Morrison said Australians have made “many sacrifices” during the pandemic.
“They rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected,” he added. “The pandemic has been incredibly difficult for every Australian, but we have stuck together and saved lives and livelihoods.
“Our strong border protection policies have kept Australians safe, prior to COVID and now during the pandemic.”
‘One of the most extraordinary spectacles’
The polls would have suggested that the majority of the Australian public expected the government to cancel his visa.
It has taken the Australian government just 96 hours after that court case that got so much attention at the start of the week to make its decision.
Now, we know that Novak Djokovic has admitted to misleading Australian authorities when filling out paperwork in relation to his arrival for the Australian Open, and we know that he in all likelihood broke the Serbian COVID rules.
That is because he tested positive on 16 December and didn’t necessarily isolate.
This is such a mess on the eve of the Australian Open. They made the draw yesterday and Djokovic was included but we understand from Melbourne that the decision is to kick him out and cancel his visa.
It is one of the most extraordinary spectacles in sport, off the tennis court. It has been so bitter on both sides, and it has polarised the anti-vaccination debate.
It has really become much bigger than that now. The polls suggested the majority of the Australian public wanted him kicked out, and the immigration minister has finally acted.
What about the Australian Open?
The second cancellation of Djokovic’s visa comes after he was drawn against fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic in the Australian Open, which is due to begin on Monday.
The men’s tennis world number one could still file a legal challenge, but if not, his hopes of winning a 10th title at Melbourne Park and 21st grand slam crown will come to an end.
In order to stand a chance at competing, his lawyers would need to go before a judge of the Federal Circuit and Family Court or a higher judge of the Federal Court to get two urgent orders.
Watch: Djokovic training session
One order would be an injunction to prevent his deportation, like the one he gained last week.
The second would order Mr Hawke to grant Djokovic a visa to play.
If he is forced out of the tournament ahead of Monday’s order of play being announced, the seeds will be shuffled around, with fifth seed Andrey Rublev taking the tennis star’s place.
‘Not great for the Australian Open – not great for Novak’
British tennis player Andy Murray described the fallout as “not a good situation”.
He added that it was “not great for the tennis, not great for the Australian Open, not great for Novak and obviously a lot of people have criticised the government here as well, so it’s not been good.
“I’m not going to sit here and start kicking Novak whilst he’s down, I said it the other day, it’s not a good situation for anyone,” he said.
My Agent Ticked the Wrong Box! Djokovic Tries to Explain ‘mistake’ on Australia Entry Form
Novak Djokovic has said his agent made a mistake on his Australia entry form when providing details of his travel in the days before his arrival in the country.
In an Instagram post, he said his “team has provided additional information to the Australian Government to clarify this matter”.
He also admitted being interviewed in person by a journalist from a French magazine in December, even though he had tested positive for COVID the day before.
It comes as the Serbian player returned to practice on the tennis court, with photos showing him at Melbourne Park, the venue for the Australian Open – which starts on 17 January and for which Djokovic has been named the number one seed.
Image: Djokovic rests during practice ahead of the Australian Open
In his post, the world number one said he wanted to address the “continuing misinformation” about his movements after testing positive in December, before his arrival in Australia.
A key issue has been his Australia entry form and whether the tennis player might have incorrectly filled it out when he ticked a box indicating he hadn’t travelled in the 14 days prior to his arrival in Australia on 6 January.
A social media post appears to show Djokovic attended an event in Marbella, Spain, during the period in question.
Separate photos also show the world tennis number one at a training session in the country on 2 January.
Djokovic apparently training in Spain before Australia trip
Speaking out on Instagram, Djokovic said: “On the issue of my travel declaration, this was submitted by my support team on my behalf as I told immigration officials on my arrival – and my agent sincerely apologises for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box about my previous travel before coming to Australia.
“This was a human error and certainly not deliberate. We are living in challenging times in a global pandemic and sometimes these mistakes can occur.
“Today, my team has provided additional information to the Australian Government to clarify this matter.
“While I felt it was important to address and clarify misinformation I will not be making any further comment out of utmost respect for the Australian Government and their authorities and the current process.”
Positive COVID test before interview
Djokovic also admitted attending an interview with French magazine L’Equipe the day after receiving his positive PCR result in December because he “felt obliged to go ahead and conduct the L’Equipe interview as I didn’t want to let the journalist down”.
“While I went home after the interview to isolate for the required period, on reflection, this was an error of judgement and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment,” he wrote.
He said he received the positive result on 17 December, the same day as he had attended a tennis event in Belgrade to present awards to children.
However, transcripts of Djokovic’s interview with Australian immigration officials submitted to the court in Melbourne show he told them the positive PCR result was on the 16th, the day before the Belgrade event.
‘The most difficult time for us’
Novak Djokovic’s mother has said she is worried that her son could still be deported from Australia and miss the first open of the year because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19.
Speaking to the Australian TV channel Network Seven from Belgrade, Dijana Djokovic said her family is hoping her son will get the chance to defend his title.
Image: Dijana Djokovic, the world number one’s mother, believes the matter is a ‘closed book’
“He’s not a politician, he is not a criminal, he’s not a murderer, he’s just a tennis player, the best in the world. Just let him play,” she said.
She feels that Djokovic’s case should be a “closed book” after a judge said he could stay in Australia.
“I’m very worried, so I realise that this is not over yet, and we are all praying that he will stay, and he will play,” Mrs Djokovic said.
“I don’t think it’s fair. At least, Judge, Honourable Judge Kelly, he decided, to make a decision that he is free, so I cannot understand how one man can, you know, make the other decision. But I don’t know your laws in your country, so I really don’t understand.”
Read more on this story:
Transcript of Australia Border Force interview shows tennis star’s shock at visa cancellation
The tennis star has reiterated his intention to compete in the open, writing that “it is always an honour and a privilege to play in the Australian Open”.
“I just want to have the opportunity to compete against the best players in the world and perform before one of the best crowds in the world,” he said.
Original Post: news.sky.com
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