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COVID: EU lifts flight suspension to southern Africa

EU members have decided to lift a suspension of air travel from several southern African nations. The restriction was imposed to halt the spread of the omicron strain.

A South African Airways RSA Airbus A320

The flight restrictions were put in place late in November 2021

Member states of the European Union on Monday decided to lift the suspension of flights to and from southern Africa after air travel was put on hold due to the omicron variant.

The news was announced by the French presidency of the EU after a meeting of the bloc's Integrated Political Crisis Response (IPCR) team.

It said there had been agreement among member states "to lift the emergency brake in place to allow air traffic with southern African countries to resume."

"Travelers from this area will, however, remain subject to the health measures applicable to travelers from third countries," it added.

Where was affected by the ban?

The measure comes after EU member states decided on November 26 to temporarily suspend flights from seven southern African countries. 

They were South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

Though EU citizens and residents were able to return home by plane, the ban effectively meant that normal air travel was halted.

Watch video 02:16

South African economy shellshocked by travel bans

The move followed the identification of the highly mutated omicron variant in South Africa. This variant is now dominant in several EU countries.

The IPCR brings together member states, European institutions and experts.

COVID-19 has caused more than 5,49 million deaths worldwide since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University. The respiratory disease is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, detected in late 2019 in Wuhan, a city in central China.

Though omicron appears to be far more transmissible that previous variants, evidence is emerging that it tends to affect the upper respiratory tract, causing milder symptoms that past forms of the coronavirus.

While vaccines have proved hugely effective at protecting against serious forms of coronavirus infection, they have had less impact on preventing people from spreading the virus.

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