Australia confirms 2 omicron cases as travel curbs tighten
HONG KONG (AP) — Australian officials confirmed Sunday that two overseas travelers arriving in Sydney are the first to test positive in the country for the omicron variant of the coronavirus, as nations around the world tightened controls against the worrying new strain.
The two passengers were among a group of 14 others who arrived in Australia from southern Africa on Saturday, They were asymptomatic and were both vaccinated for COVID-19. The remaining 12 have been placed in quarantine.
Neighboring New Zealand announced it was restricting travel from nine southern African countries because of the threat posed by the variant, and Japan widened its border controls to include more countries from the region.
Tourist-dependent Thailand, which only recently began loosening its tight border restrictions to leisure travelers from certain countries, announced a ban of its own on visitors from eight African counties. Similar restrictions took effect in the business hub of Singapore, which is barring entry and transit to anyone with a recent history of travel to seven southern African nations.
Sri Lanka banned disembarkation of passengers arriving from six African countries due to the detection of the omicron variant, as did the Maldives, the luxury Indian Ocean resort archipelago. In addition to the similar entry ban, quarantine officials in the Philippines have been ordered to track down recent travelers from southern Africa and put them in a quarantine.
Israel went further, barring entry to all foreign nationals, mandating quarantine for all Israelis arriving from abroad and red-listing travel to 50 African countries. It also approved use of the Shin Bet internal security agency’s controversial phone monitoring technology to perform contact tracing of individuals confirmed with the new omicron variant of coronavirus in...