The Canadian government is reacting to word of a new COVID-19 variant on the rise in parts of southern Africa with a number of restrictions limiting travel to and from the regions. 

South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique, Botswana, Lesotho, and Eswatiniall fall under the new travel rules implemented after today’s announcement.

This means the Canadian border is effectively closed for foreign nationals who’ve been to one of the above countries within the last two weeks.

Individuals in Canada who’ve already returned from one of these countries with in the last two weeks are being asked to quarantine at home immediately and take a COVID test, even if they’re not showing symptoms. Officials are asking these individuals to self isolate until they get a negative test result. 

“We really want to make sure we’re doing all we can to protect the health and safety of Canadians,” said health minister Jean-Yves Duclos said.

South African scientists recently pinpointed a new variant of the COVID-19 virus that they believe is a major contributor to the recent spikes in COVID cases in the country’s populous Gauteng region. Little is known about this new variant being referred to as B.1.1.529, and recently named a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization, but scientists have noted early indicators that the mutation is no more deadly than other variants. 

Currently there are no direct flights going in and out of Canada to these seven restricted countries, and the Canadian government is requiring anyone getting on a Canada-bound connecting flight from this region to produce a negative COVID test before boarding. Travellers from these countries will also need to take a COVID test upon arrival in Canada and quarantine until their results are negative. 

There’s also a travel advisory coming from Global Affairs Canada will warn against all travel to these regions for the next while as more information about the mutated virus emerges.