Canadians stranded in South Africa due to the discovery of the omicron variant of coronavirus have been granted a special travel exemption to return home.
According to the federal government, they are now eligible to fly back if they if they obtain a negative COVID-19 PCR test no more than 48 hours before departure from an accredited South African laboratory — or, they can show proof of a positive COVID-19 test that is at least 14 days old, showing they have had the infection and recovered.
After that, they must fly from Cape Town or Johannesburg to Frankfurt, Germany, where they will then need to fly to Canada aboard a direct flight on Lufthansa or Air Canada, departing on or before Dec. 13.
The government’s advisory posted online Saturday calls it a temporary exemption.
A number of Canadians, including members of Canada’s junior women’s field hockey team, have been stuck in South Africa since Canada suspended travel with that country and neighbouring countries just over a week ago.
The field hockey team is set to depart on Dec. 8.
Canadians wishing to leave South Africa have been frustrated by restrictions Canada had put in place affecting travellers from 10 countries, mostly in southern Africa, requiring travellers go to a third country to get a negative COVID-19 test before continuing their journey to Canada, regardless of vaccination status.
What’s happening across Canada
- N.B. announces 77 new cases, prepares for changes to restrictions.
What’s happening around the world
As of Sunday, more than 265.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.2 million.
In the Americas, 10 people aboard a Norwegian Cruise Line ship approaching New Orleans have tested positive for COVID-19, officials said Saturday night.
The Norwegian Breakaway had departed New Orleans on Nov. 28 and is due to return this weekend, the Louisiana Department of Health said in a news release. Over the past week, the ship made stops in Belize, Honduras and Mexico.
More than 3,200 people are on board the ship, officials said.
According to the statement, Norwegian “has been adhering to appropriate quarantine and isolation protocols as new cases and exposures have been identified aboard this vessel.”
Prior to disembarking in New Orleans, each person on board will be tested for the coronavirus. Anyone who tests positive will either go directly home or self-isolate in accommodations provided by the cruise line, officials said.
In Europe, police fired tear gas and used water cannons on Sunday to disperse protesters pelting officers with cobblestones and fireworks as a demonstration in Brussels over government-imposed COVID-19 restrictions turned violent.
Demonstrators were protesting rules imposed by the Belgian government in October that oblige people to show COVID-19 vaccination passes to access bars and restaurants.
In Germany, the incoming transport minister is advising people against travelling over Christmas as the country tries to stem a wave of coronavirus infections.
“In the current situation, it seems more sensible to spend Christmas in a small group at home and not to plan big trips across the country,” Volker Wissing said in a Sunday newspaper interview.
Federal and state leaders on Thursday announced tough new restrictions that largely target unvaccinated people, preventing them from entering nonessential stores, restaurants, sports and cultural venues.