(Adds new travel ban)
Rabat, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Morocco’s health ministry confirmed on Monday its first imported case of the more contagious variant of the novel coronavirus first discovered in the UK.
The variant was detected in the northern port of Tangier in a Moroccan national returning from Ireland via Marseille, the ministry said in a statement.
On Monday, the foreign ministry said travellers from Australia, Brazil, Ireland and New Zealand will not be allowed into the country. Morocco has suspended flights coming from the UK since late December in an effort to protect against further spread of the virus.
Morocco has announced it plans to launch a free vaccination campaign targeting 25 million people, or 80% of its population.
The country ordered 66 million vaccine doses from AstraZeneca Plc and China’s Sinopharm. It has not yet received any.
On Dec. 23, Morocco imposed a nationwide four-week curfew from 9:00 pm to 6:00 am to contain virus.
On Monday, the country said it has recorded a total of 460,144 coronavirus infections including 7,977 deaths and 16,481 active cases.
Health experts have raised concerns over new highly transmissible mutations of the virus first reported in the UK and South Africa and now cropping up in several other countries. A third new variant has since been reported in Brazil. (Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi Editing by Bill Berkrot)
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