The Government of Russia has announced that foreign visitors from nine African countries and Hong Kong are completely banned from entering the east European country to curb the spread of the Omicron variant.
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin signed the decree announcing new travel restrictions which were published this Saturday.
The new measures effectively cancel all earlier exceptions for diplomatic passport holders, travellers on a business visa, and some other categories of visitors.
The countries affected are Botswana, Zimbabwe, Hong Kong, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Eswatini and South Africa.
Initially, Russian authorities said the entry of foreigners residing in Hong Kong or in some African countries would be “restricted” due to the spread of the new strain of the infection.
Russia joins a long list of countries around the world that have restricted visitors from south Africa where the Omicron variant was initially detected.
Other countries to have adopted the draconian measures include the United Kingdom, Israel, Australia, the United States of America, New Zealand, among others.
The Omicron variant was first reported in South Africa but later found to have been detected in the Netherlands at an earlier date.
On 26 November, the World Health Organisation (WHO) designated the B.1.1.529 coronavirus variant as a “Variant of Concern” and assigned it the Greek letter Omicron.