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Asia Minute: Regional reactions to Omicron vary with visitors, vaccinations

Yui Mok/Pool Photo via AP

The United States and many other countries around the world have barred travelers from South Africa and seven neighboring nations because of the new variant of the coronavirus. But several places in the Asia Pacific have gone even further.

Hong Kong and Australia were the first Asia Pacific locations to report cases of the Omicron variant.

Hong Kong quickly changed its border policy — now requiring anyone who comes from a country with even a single case of the variant to spend three weeks in quarantine.

Nonresident arrivals are also now banned from Australia, Canada and parts of Europe.

The Secretary for Food and Health says the first cases in Hong Kong have been “successfully contained,” but health officials continue close monitoring of arrivals.

In Australia, previous plans to reopen the borders to some international visitors have been put on hold for at least two weeks.

Health officials say that should give them time to evaluate the country’s vulnerability to the new variant.

Japan had already been closed to most foreign travelers — and is now going back to a total ban.

That shuts off what was only a slow trickle of business travelers and international students.

Other locations are using the new variant as a wedge for vaccination campaigns.

In South Korea, they’re stepping up the pace of booster shots.

In the Philippines, health officials launched a campaign Monday to vaccinate 9 million people in three days — nearly quadrupling the recent daily pace of shots.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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