Romania’s foreign ministry said Saturday that 36 nationals are stranded in South Africa as the EU halts air travel from southern African countries due to a new Covid variant.
The new concerning strain of Covid was detected by scientists in South Africa on Thursday.
Major travel destinations including the European Union, Japan, Australia, the United States and Canada have moved to block flights from African countries following the discovery of the Omicron variant.
The speed with which the new restrictions were put in place, hours after the South African health authorities announced the discovery of the variant, meant passengers have found themselves stranded without a warning.
South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases said it has a “very unusual constellation” of mutations that cause evasion of the body’s immunity and make it more transmissible. Twenty-two cases of the new virus variant have been detected so far, two of which in Hong Kong.
The foreign ministry said the stranded Romanians were tourists, sailors, and sports delegates.
It said the Romanian embassy in Pretoria was “urgently” helping the athletes and other delegates with accommodation and finding alternate flights to Romania.
The consul in Cape Town is in “permanent dialogue” with Romanians affected by the situation and local authorities and is providing assistance, it said.
The discovery in South Africa of a new coronavirus variant triggered global alarm on Friday as countries rushed to suspend travel from a number of countries in southern Africa and stock markets on both sides of the Atlantic suffered their biggest falls in more than a year.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said the new variant, named Omicron, may spread more quickly than other variants of Covid-19. Preliminary evidence suggested there is an increased risk of reinfection.