Qatar Airways reportedly made a u-turn while in Zambia and returned to Harare where it dropped passengers that had boarded the plane in Zimbabwe.

This was after some European countries, the USA and others imposed a unilateral ban on travellers from Southern Africa following the announcement that Omicron, a new coronavirus variant, had been detected in South Africa.

Reports say Qatar Airways crew was told while in Lusaka, Zambia, picking up other passengers, that travellers from five Southern African countries including South Africa and Zimbabwe, were barred from boarding the planes until there was clarity on the B.1.1.529 (Omicron) variant.

Sources say upon receiving information to leave Zimbabwean travellers, the flight then turned back to Harare and dropped the passengers.

Travellers that had pressing commitments in Europe and the US are said to have used other airlines and went via Tanzania with the hope of connecting to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, then Europe or the US.

Although not many of the sources were keen to be quoted for professional reasons, they confirmed that a Qatar Airways flight was forced to return to Harare and drop off passengers.

Airports Company of Zimbabwe chief executive Mr Tawanda Gusha, told The Herald on Monday night that the incident happened. Gusha added:

I don’t think it affects the Airports Company (of Zimbabwe) alone, but the whole nation. So a comment is better off from the national level.

In a statement on Saturday, Qatar Airways said it will no longer be accepting passengers travelling from five Southern African countries while passengers travelling into these countries will continue to be accepted.