Morocco will halt incoming passenger flights for two weeks starting Monday night amid concern over the spread of a new, heavily mutated COVID-19 variant dubbed Omicron, a government committee said.
“The decision has been taken because of the quick spread of the new COVID variant, Omicron, namely in Europe and Africa, and in order… to protect the health of Moroccan citizens,” the committee tasked with overseeing Morocco’s COVID response said in a statement.
It said the measure would take effect from 11:59 pm (2259 GMT) Monday for two weeks, and would be evaluated regularly to make “adjustments if necessary.”
The announcement came hours after Israel said it would be closing its borders to foreign tourists from Sunday evening in a bid to stem the spread of the Omicron variant.
The variant was first detected in South Africa, with cases reported in several countries, prompting nations to reimpose containment measures that many had hoped were a thing of the past.
Morocco, whose economy relies heavily on tourism, had announced Friday a ban on entry to travelers from South Africa and six other African nations.
It had already decided to suspend flights to and from France amid a spike in coronavirus infections in Europe.
France has the world’s largest Moroccan expatriate community, with more than one million Moroccans living in the EU member state.
Some 800,000 French nationals live in Morocco.
In October, Morocco said it was suspending flights to and from Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and Russia due to concerns about coronavirus trends in those countries.
Morocco has officially recorded around 950,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 14,500 deaths.
Earlier this month, the North African kingdom lifted a nighttime curfew imposed months earlier to curb the spread of coronavirus.