Stock Dubai Airport
Dubai Airport Image Credit: Dubai Media office

Abu Dhabi: The UAE on Friday suspended inbound flights from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Eswatini due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19 variants.

The travel ban will take effect from Monday, November 29.

The move was announced by the General Civil Aviation Authority, the Supreme Council for National Security and the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority.

Following the announcement from COVID‑19 Command and Control Centre (CCC), Dubai's flag carrier Emirates has suspended inbound passenger flights from seven South African nations. However, outbound flights from Dubai to these countries will not be affected. Passengers traveling to these countries can continue to fly as booked.

As per the airline's notice on its website, travellers originating from, or transiting from, the countries listed below will not be accepted for travel into Dubai with effect from Monday, November 29, 2021 until further notice.

"Affected customers do not need to call us immediately for rebooking. Customers can simply hold on to their Emirates ticket and when flights resume, get in touch with their travel agent or booking office to make new travel plans," the airlines said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) has designated a new COVID-19 variant detected in South Africa with a large number of mutations as being "of concern," the fifth variant to be given the designation.

The WHO said in a statement that it had assigned the B.1.1.529 variant the Greek letter Omicron.

South Africa has confirmed around 100 specimens as B.1.1.529, but the variant has also been found in Botswana and Hong Kong, with the Hong Kong case a traveller from South Africa.

The discovery of the new variant sent a chill through much of the world Friday as nations raced to halt air travel and scientists held emergency meetings to weigh the exact risks, which were largely unknown. Medical experts, including the World Health Organization, warned against any overreaction before the variant that originated in southern Africa was better understood.