UN says global tourism to lose $2T as Omicron spreads

Covid-19 has infected more than 261M people and killed over 5.2M even as new heavily mutated variant, dubbed Omicron, spreads across the globe. Here are the virus-related developments for November 29:

UN says Covid will cost global tourism $2 trillion this year

The coronavirus pandemic will cost the global tourism sector $2.0 trillion in lost revenue in 2021, the UN’s tourism body has said, calling the sector’s recovery “fragile” and “slow”.

The forecast from the Madrid-based World Tourism Organization comes as Europe is grappling with a surge in infections and as a new heavily mutated Covid-19 variant, dubbed Omicron, spreads across the globe.

International tourist arrivals will this year remain 70-75 percent below the 1.5 billion arrivals recorded in 2019 before the pandemic hit, a similar decline as in 2020, according to the body.

The global tourism sector already lost $2.0 trillion in revenues last year due to the pandemic, according to the UNWTO, making it one of sectors hit hardest by the health crisis.

Australia to review reopen plans

Australia will review its plans to reopen borders to skilled migrants and students from December 1, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said, after the country reported its first cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant over the weekend.

Two people who arrived in Australia from southern Africa tested positive on Sunday for the newly identified Omicron variant as officials ordered 14-day quarantines for citizens returning from nine African countries and banned entry from those nations for non-citizens.

Morrison urged people to remain calm, saying data has not yet fully proven the severity, transmissibility and vaccine resistance of the Omicron strain.

Omicron, dubbed a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization, is potentially more contagious than previous variants. Experts do not know yet if it will cause more or less severe Covid-19 compared to other strains.

Strict border controls and snap lockdowns have helped Australia to keep its coronavirus numbers far lower than many comparable countries. It has so far recorded about 208,000 cases and 1,994 deaths since the pandemic began.

Japan considering further border controls as Omicron spreads

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said his country will consider further tightening its borders as the newly discovered Omicron coronavirus variant spreads around the world.

“We are (taking measures) with a strong sense of crisis,” Kishida told reporters, noting that Japan closed its borders to foreigners travelling from nine countries including South Africa as of Sunday.

“As we’re seeing a spread around the world, we continue to consider further measures to tighten border controls and will announce a decision at the appropriate time.”

Biden told it will take two weeks to have definitive data on Omicron variant

The top US infectious disease official, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has told President Joe Biden it will take about two weeks to have definitive information on the new coronavirus variant Omicron that has sparked new travel restrictions and shaken financial markets.

Biden, returning to Washington following the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, was briefed in person by his coronavirus response team  as officials expect the new variant to reach the United States despite an impending ban on travellers from Southern Africa, where it was first detected.

Fauci said he believes existing vaccines are likely to provide “a degree of protection against severe cases of Covid”, and officials reiterated their recommendation for vaccinated Americans to get booster shots, according to a readout of the briefing.

Singapore, Malaysia reopen busy land border for vaccinated travellers

Singapore and Malaysia have reopened one of the world’s busiest land borders on Monday, allowing vaccinated travellers to make the crossing after nearly two years of closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The sudden closure of the border in March 2020 left tens of thousands people stranded on both sides, separated from families and fearing for their jobs.

As many as 300,000 Malaysians commuted daily to wealthy city-state Singapore before the pandemic.

Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob is also due to make his first official visit as premier to Singapore on Monday.

Under the new arrangement, up to 1,440 travellers from each side can travel if they hold citizenship, permanent residency or long-term visas in the destination country, without undergoing quarantine, according to guidelines published by the Singapore government.

Source: TRT


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