Nepal on Monday suspended issuing visas to visitors from African nations after emergence of new Covid variant Omicron, believed to be lethal than existing ones.
Nepal’ Ministry of Home Affairs has directed the Department of Immigration, Tribhuvan International Airport office in Kathmandu and administration offices of districts bordering India not to issue visas on arrival to people coming from African countries.
“To mitigate the risk of spread of the new virus variant, we have directed agencies concerned not to issue visas on arrival to the people from African countries,” Home Ministry spokesman Phanindra Mani Pokhrel said. “Nepalis returning from those countries can stay in home quarantine,” he added.
Similarly, the Health Ministry has intensified caution in view that new variant Omicron (B.1.1.529) first reported in South Africa could spread to Nepal, said Dr Samir Kumar Adhikari, joint spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Population.
Although the variant has not yet been reported in Nepal, risks still prevail, Adhikari said. “There is a high probability of the variant transporting to Nepal. But we are all prepared to prevent its spread here.”
As part of the drive to prevent the variant as classed by the World Health Organisation as “of concern”, help desks at the border areas with neighbouring India and Tribhuvan International Airport, the country’s sole international airport, have increased vigil, he said.
Restricting direct flights from the disease-hit countries, banning entry to foreigners, and testing all people at the international border points are among the measures governments around the world have taken to prevent possible transmission of the highly mutant coronavirus variant-dubbed Omicron.
The key arsenal for fighting against the Covid pandemic is to speed-up the vaccination drive but several countries have still do not have required numbers of doses. As of Monday, Nepal’s total vaccination is around 27 per cent and rest of the population including children are desperately waiting even as single dose of Covid vaccine.