UK extends booster vaccinations; Spain, Sweden and Canada report Omicron cases. Cuba will tighten coronavirus restrictions from 4 December for passengers from certain African countries over concerns about the Omicron coronavirus variant, the country’s government said on Monday.
Travellers arriving from South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Malawi, and Mozambique will be allowed to enter Cuba, the country’s health ministry said, but will be required to comply with multiple precautionary measures, including proof of vaccination, three PCR tests and a seven-day quarantine.
Travellers from other sub-Saharan African nations, as well as Belgium, Israel, Hong Kong, Egypt and Turkey will be required to take two PCR tests, the ministry said.
Concerns over the Omicron variant are flaring in Cuba just two weeks after the Caribbean island nation reopened its borders to international visitors.
Cuba, whose economy depends on tourism, eased entry requirements after inoculating most of its people with a Covid-19 vaccine developed domestically. New infections have dropped off sharply in recent weeks, as have deaths from Covid-19.
Fines of up to £6,400 for not wearing face covering in shops and on public transport in England
As part of targeted measures to prevent the spread of the new Covid-19 variant Omicron, from 4am on 30 November, people in England will be required by law to wear a face covering in shops, enclosed shopping centres, banks, post offices, and on public transport.
Some individuals will be exempt from doing so, such as children under the age of 11, shop and public transport staff, police officers and emergency responders, plus anyone with a reasonable excuse, such as a disability or physical or mental illness.
People will not be required to wear masks in hospitality settings, and photography studios are also exempt.
People who are not wearing a face covering where they have to can be fined in form of a fixed penalty notice and ordered to pay £200, rising to £400 for the second such offence, and to £800 for the third, up to a maximum of £6,400 in the case of a sixth and subsequent fixed penalty notices received.
In the 24 hours to Sunday, 22,304 first doses of Covid vaccine were administered in the UK, taking the total of first doses delivered to 50,941,327 as of 28 November, government figures show.
Some 46,341,057 second doses have been delivered as of Sunday, an increase of 29,445.
A combined total of 17,581,331 booster and third doses have also been given, a day-on-day rise of 450,480. Separate totals for booster and third doses are not available.
Ghana’s government is ordering access to beaches, restaurants, night clubs and stadiums be limited to people who have been vaccinated against Covid, as part of its efforts to fight the spread of the virus, AP reports.
While the Omicron variant has not yet been identified in the west African country, the government health service is “taking steps to protect the country towards the Christmas season,” Ghana’s health service director-general Patrick Kuma-Aboagye said.
At least 5.45 million people of Ghana’s population of 31 million have received at least one vaccine dose. Vaccines being administered in Ghana include AstraZeneca, Sputnik V, Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson.
Ghana’s land borders are currently closed and air travellers are required to have a PCR test within 72 hours of arrival and antigen tests upon arrival.
The country aims to administer 20 million doses of vaccines by the end of 2021, Kuma-Aboagye said in a statement issued on Sunday.
“Among Covid-19 deaths at the Ghana Infectious Diseases Center, 12.5% of the deaths were persons who had been vaccinated (they also had severe underlying medical conditions). The rest, 87.5%, hadn’t been vaccinated,” he said.
Dutch police have arrested a married couple who fled a quarantine hotel to get a flight out of the country, despite at least one of them testing positive for Covid on arrival in the Netherlands from South Africa, where the new Omicron variant was first identified.
The Portuguese woman and Spanish man were apprehended in their seats moments before their plane was scheduled to leave for Spain from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport on Sunday evening.
A spokesperson for the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee, a national police force, said the couple had been taken off the plane “almost silently and without resistance”.
They were being kept in isolation in hospital and could be prosecuted for violating Dutch quarantine rules. It is unclear whether one or both had tested positive for the Omicron variant or one of the earlier strains.
A total of 624 passengers arrived at Schiphol on flights from Johannesburg and Cape Town on Friday morning on the Dutch national carrier KLM.
People were held for four hours on their planes while they were tested for the virus. Those who tested negative were asked to isolate at home for five days and take further tests and those transiting were allowed to carry on with their journey.
Sixty-one passengers tested positive and were put into quarantine at a Ramada hotel near the airport along with their partners. Thirteen of them were identified as having contracted the Omicron variant.
The couple, who have not been named, are understood to have left their hotel at about 6pm on Sunday evening, at which point the security guards supervising the quarantine called the police. The Marechaussee did not release further details of the couple’s medical status.
The Dutch health minister, Hugo de Jonge, made an urgent request for all those who had arrived from southern Africa in recent days to be tested for Covid as soon as possible.