France has said it will start allowing flights from Southern Africa to land on its territory from Saturday, but with "drastic" restrictions allowing only French and European Union residents to disembark, along with diplomats and flight crews.
Gabriel Attal, a government spokesperson, after a weekly cabinet meeting, said that these travellers must undergo a COVID-19 test upon arrival, with a negative result still requiring a seven-day quarantine, while a positive test will require a 10-day quarantine, Al Jazeera reported.
The flight ban on South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe was implemented on November 26 in response to the Omicron coronavirus variant's spread. It was originally set to expire on Wednesday.
A newly identified COVID-19 variant --- B.1.1.529 --- is causing an increase in new COVID-19 infections in South Africa.
The World Health Organization (WHO) identified on Friday the new South African strain as one of concern, as it is reported to carry a high number of mutations -- 32 -- which possibly makes it more transmissible and dangerous. The WHO has dubbed it Omicron, the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet.