Sri Lanka will ban entry to most travellers from six southern African countries from Sunday, after a potentially more contagious new coronavirus variant called Omicron was identified in South Africa earlier this week, healthcare authorities said in Colombo on Saturday.
"With effect from Sunday, arrivals from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho and Eswatini are required to undergo mandatory quarantine," a circular from the director general of health services said.
The new COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529, first detected in South Africa this week, was on Friday designated as a 'variant of concern' by the World Health Organisation, which named it 'Omicron.'
A 'variant of concern' is the WHO's top category of worrying COVID-19 variants.
It was first reported to the WHO from South Africa on November 24, and has also been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel.
A number of countries around the world have now decided to ban or restrict travel to and from these six southern Africa nations.
"As a new COVID-19 variant called 'nu' has been detected from South African countries travellers with a travel history including transit in the past 14 days to South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Eswaitini (Swaziland) will not be permitted to disembark in Sri Lanka," the circular added.
Irrespective of their vaccination status, travellers aged 12 years and above, who are arriving in Sri Lanka over the weekend from these six southern African nations will have to undergo PCR tests, according to the circular.
Sri Lanka continues to record over 700 cases on a daily basis since a six-week lockdown was lifted on October 1.
As on Saturday, the island nation has recorded a total of 561,059 confirmed cases and 14,258 deaths.