WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland said on Monday it would ban flights to seven African countries, extend quarantines for some travellers and further limit numbers allowed into places like restaurants, amid concerns over the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
The new measures will be in effect from Dec. 1-17.
Polish authorities had earlier said the country was approaching the peak of its fourth wave of COVID-19 infections, but the emergence of the Omicron variant has muddied the outlook for the course of the pandemic.
"We must appreciate the importance of this phenomenon and the risk that a new mutation emerging poses," Health Minister Adam Niedzielski told a news conference, labelling Omicron a potential "game-changer".
Niedzielski said Poland would ban flights to seven African countries where Omicron was present, and extend quarantine periods for people returning from these countries to 14 days.
People travelling to Poland from outside the European Union's Schengen open-border travel zone will have their quarantines extended to 14 days, with the possibility of taking a test after eight days to shorten the isolation.
The country will also tighten restrictions on the number of people allowed in places like restaurants and cinemas, reducing the limit to 50% of full capacity, not counting people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Poland has reported no cases of the Omicron variant as yet, but confirmed cases have been reported in neighbouring Germany.
(Reporting by Alan Charlish, Pawel Florkiewicz and Anna Koper; Editing by Mark Heinrich)