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Canadian stuck in South Africa amid Omicron laments ‘stressful’ ordeal while trying to come home

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TORONTO —
A Canadian currently stuck in South Africa is running out of options as he navigates confusing travel rules to come home.

Richard Maisel arrived in Cape Town, South Africa, on Nov. 24, just as the world first learned of the B.1.1.259 variant — later named “Omicron” – and is now looking at another two weeks in the country as airlines and governments restrict travel from southern Africa.

“This has been incredibly frustrating and stressful,” he told CTV News Channel on Monday.

Maisel said he is running low on options as most airlines will not accept Canadian travellers, while the federal government requires an in-transit PCR test for entry into Canada, which rules out several connecting airports.

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“Most of the European airlines are only taking EU citizens back, not allowing Canadians to board the flights,” he said. “The American airlines — Delta and United — are only allowed American citizens to come back.”

Maisel said he’s only been able to find a flight to Germany that accepts Canadians and provides in-transit PCR testing, but the next flight isn’t for one or two weeks.

“Luckily for me… I have my parents to stay with,” he said. “Most Canadians on the chat group are staying in hotels or Airbnbs and they have no where to go.”

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On Friday, the Canadian government banned travellers from the southern African countries of South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini. Anyone who had travelled through those counties in the previous 14 days is asked to quarantine until they can provide a negative test result.

Health officials have confirmed three cases of the Omicron variant in Canada: two in Ottawa and one in Quebec. There are also four more suspected Omicron cases in Ontario.

·         READ MORE: First cases of Omicron COVID-19 variant detected in Canada: What we know

It is still unclear how transmissible and dangerous this new variant may be. Researchers have said more information is needed to make those conclusions.

With files from CTVNews.ca Writers Nicole Bogart and Hannah Jackson

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