Thailand said on Saturday it would ban the entry of people travelling from eight African countries it designated as high-risk for the new Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Starting in December, travel from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, will be prohibited, senior health official Opas Karnkawinpong told a news conference.

Thailand will not allow travellers from these countries to register to travel to Thailand starting on Saturday, he said.

The announcement comes as other countries in Asia tighten borders over worries about the B 1.1.529 variant. The World Health Organization designated it the latest “variant of concern,” saying it may spread more quickly than other forms.

“We have notified airlines and these countries,” Opas said adding that travellers from other African countries will not be allowed to use the country’s quarantine-free travel scheme for vaccinated travellers.

Oman has also suspended entry to travellers from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Eswatini starting from Nov. 28 due to the spread of a new variant of COVID-19 discovered in South Africa, the country’s state news agency said in a tweet on Saturday.

Meanwhile, South African Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla says the travel bans imposed on South Africa by certain countries are premature and not in line with the World Health Organisation standards. Several countries in Europe, Asia and the Middle East imposed travel bans to and from the country on Friday after the announcement that the new variant was detected in South Africa and Botswana. Phaahla was speaking during a virtual question and answer session on Friday night.

‘The reaction by some of the countries in terms of imposing travel bans are completely against the norms and standards by the world health organisation. At this stage therefore we want to assure South Africans that we must just do everything we can to protect ourselves.”

New COVID-19 variant (B.1.1.529) explained: Dr Michelle Groome