Nepal bans entry of all African nationals over new coronavirus variant
KATHMANDU, Nov. 28: Nepal's Home Ministry on Sunday decided to bar nationals from all African countries from entering the country for the time being, citing the threat posed by the new Omicron coronavirus variant.
"Considering the high risks from the new variant of the coronavirus, we instructed our immigration offices on Sunday not to allow citizens of all the African countries, except those with official or diplomatic passports, to enter the country with immediate effect," Phanindramani Pokharel, the ministry's spokesman, told Xinhua.
"Initially we instructed them verbally, and it will be formalized soon," he said, adding the ministry has not set any deadline for the new rule as the threat of the new variant is being examined globally.
The World Health Organization declared on Friday the latest variant B.1.1.529 of SARS-CoV-2, first identified in South Africa, to be "of concern," its most serious level, and officially gave it the Greek name Omicron.
In September, Nepal reopened the on-arrival visa service for foreign tourists fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with a view to reviving the tourism sector.
Pokharel made it clear that even vaccinated tourists from African countries would not be allowed into Nepal for the time being. "African nationals who have already received Nepal's visas from Nepali embassies abroad won't be allowed to enter Nepal either," he said.
Nepal neither has direct air links with African countries currently, nor has received a large number of African tourists.
Pokharel said no decision has been made on Nepali nationals and citizens of non-African countries who arrive in Nepal via Africa.
Nepal has been hit twice by the coronavirus, but it has seen daily new infections declining in recent months.