KuwaitOther News

Africans in Kuwait reconsider travel and vacation plans amid Omicron

By Chidi Emmanuel, Ben Garcia

KUWAIT: As more countries joined the rush to ban some southern African countries after the emergence of a new COVID variant – Omicron, some African expats are beginning to have a rethink on their travel plans. Kuwait on Saturday joined dozens of countries across the globe to imposed travel restrictions on South Africa and its neighbors since its scientists flagged the variant last Thursday. This in turn, has affected many Africans in the region as they weigh their options. The nine African nations that were affected include; South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zambia and Malawi.

For South African school teacher Jolene GJ who has been preparing for a vacation to celebrate Christmas with her family, the ban has affected her so much. Unfortunately, the new variant has shattered her vacation plans. Jolene had booked her ticket for her scheduled flight to South Africa (December 3, 2021) and to return to Kuwait by New Year. “I cannot proceed with my plans because of the ban. The past few days have been so depressing for me. I was looking forward to spending the Christmas with my family and friends,” she said.

In addition to the travel restrictions, Kuwait’s Council of Ministers ban entry of passengers from the nine southern African countries unless they spend 14 days in a third country with a negative PCR test result before boarding a flight to Kuwait. “So now, I have to call off my vacation plans. I have not seen my family for a long time due to the airport closure last year,” she said.

Chimwemwe Vitto Mwineya from Malawi is also affected by the recent development. Mwineya, who was also preparing to take vacation next month has to call it off immediately and informed his travel agent to cancel the ticket. “I booked my ticket on October and was excited to go home as I didn’t take my vacation for the last three years. I was eager to see my kids. Now, I don’t want to leave Kuwait and get stuck in Malawi. Right now, I am temporarily holding up my vacation plans,” he said.

Avoid travel
Meanwhile, Sierra Leone’s Ambassador in Kuwait Haja Ishata Thomas advised African expats to be cautious – urging them to follow all the necessary precautionary measures. “We should be careful always. We should take all the appropriate measures so as to combat this virus. Unless it is essential, it is not advisable to travel this time around,” the ambassador advised.

For Mike and his friends, it is risky to travel this time around. “We actually planned to celebrate this Christmas at home with our families but with the look of things, we cannot go again. Corona has overridden our plans,” Mike said as his friends nodded in agreement. “We hope to travel during Easter. By then, things would have gotten better,” Mike’s friend Tony told Kuwait Times as they enter inside the Church in Kuwait City.

Omicron is widely spreading around the world, with new cases found in the Netherlands, Denmark and Australia even as more countries have imposed travel restrictions. The detection has triggered a global alarm – and governments around the world scrambled to impose new travel curbs. Meanwhile, an outraged South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday said the curbs were scientifically unjustified and called for them to be “immediately and urgently” reversed.

Also, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has weighed in, urging nations to avoid the blame games. “The people of Africa cannot be blamed for the immorally low level of vaccinations available in Africa-and they should not be penalized for identifying and sharing crucial science and health information with the world,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.

 

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