Singapore, Malaysia curb arrivals from southern Africa over variant

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Singapore has experienced only a mild outbreak of Covid-19 (AFP/Roslan RAHMAN)

Singapore and Malaysia will restrict arrivals from seven African countries, health officials said Friday, after South Africa discovered a new Covid-19 variant with a large number of mutations.

All non-citizens and people without permanent residency who have recent travel history to the seven countries will be barred from entering.

In both Singapore and neighbouring Malaysia, the restrictions will apply to South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.

Citizens and foreigners holding permanent resident status will be allowed to return to Singapore and Malaysia, but will have to undergo quarantine, health officials in both countries said.

Malaysia also banned its citizens from visiting the seven affected nations.

The curbs will kick in over the weekend in both countries.

Neither country has detected the new variant, but Singapore's health ministry said it was seeking to "take the necessary precautions to reduce the risks" of it reaching the city-state.

The restrictions are unlikely to have a big impact, with Malaysia's borders still largely closed to foreign visitors and Singapore only slowly beginning to re-open its own.

The measures were introduced as several European countries banned most travel from South Africa.

Singapore has had a mild outbreak of Covid-19, although Malaysia was hard hit earlier this year by the Delta variant.

Scientists in South Africa announced the discovery of the variant, which goes by the label B.1.1.529, on Thursday, and are blaming it for a surge in infections.

sr/rbu

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