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‘Absolute chaos’ in South Africa as flights grounded over Omicron
New Omicron variant of the coronavirus leaves South Africans isolated as countries ban travellers from the region.
Johannesburg, South Africa – Disbelief and confusion washed over South Africa as the announcement of the discovery of the Omicron COVID-19 variant grounded flights and raised fears of a hard lockdown in Africa’s most developed economy.
Flights from the country to the United States, United Kingdom, and nations in Europe were swiftly banned after South African scientists officially announced the discovery of the virus strain on Thursday.
“This is absolute chaos. Nobody can tell us what is possible in terms of travel at this point,” said Steve Lawrence, a stranded traveller at OR Tambo, one of Africa’s busiest airports.
“Things are changing by the minute and we are left in the lurch. We had planned to stay in the United States for the month of December – and now we are stuck.”
Daily coronavirus infections have risen 13-fold since early November with 3,220 new cases reported on Saturday. Eight deaths brought the total to 89,791 in South Africa since the onset of the pandemic.
About 600 passengers on two KLM flights from Johannesburg to Amsterdam were left stranded on the runway at Schiphol Airport after panic set in following the announcement.