Head of the National Command and Operation Centre Asad Umar announced on Saturday that Pakistan has restricted travel from six African countries and Hong Kong over the emergence of the new coronavirus variant.
“Based on the emergence of the new Covid variant, notification has been issued [to] restrict travel from six South African countries and Hong Kon,” tweeted Umar.
The federal planning minister said that it was now more important to get Pakistanis over the age of 12 vaccinated against coronavirus after “the emergence of the new variant”.
Read more: Dutch say 61 COVID positive on flights from South Africa
World races to contain new Covid variant
Fears mounted Saturday that a highly-infectious new coronavirus strain was pushing its way into Europe as the world brought the shutters down to contain the new Omicron variant.
Suspected new cases emerged in Germany and the Czech Republic, while Dutch authorities quarantined 61 passengers from South Africa who tested positive for Covid-19.
South Africa has complained that it was being “punished” with air travel bans for first detecting the strain, which the World Health Organisation has termed a “variant of concern”.
Australia and Thailand joined the United States, Brazil, Canada and a host of other countries around the world restricting travel from the region, fearing a major setback to global efforts against the pandemic.
Read more: Germany finds suspected Covid-19 variant case
Scientists are racing to determine the threat posed by the heavily mutated strain, which is more transmissible than the dominant Delta variant, and whether it can evade existing vaccines.
The virus has already slipped through the net with cases in Europe and Hong Kong and Israel.
Germany became the second European country to find a suspected case of the new strain, after Belgium on Friday.
The WHO said it could take several weeks to understand the variant, which was initially known as B.1.1.529, and cautioned against imposing travel curbs while scientific evidence was still scant.