Britain will suspend flights from 6 African countries over new variant

  • A new variant of coronavirus has been identified in Botswana and South Africa.
  • Named “B.1.1.529,” it has many mutations pertaining to scientists and the World Health Organization.
  • Britain imposed travel restrictions on Thursday for six African countries following the news.

The UK has added six African countries to its “red” travel list and temporarily suspended flights due to concerns about a new variant of coronavirus.

Sajid Javid, Britain’s Foreign Secretary for Health and Social Care, issued the statement on Thursday shortly after the World Health Organization gave a briefing on the variant, dubbed B.1.1.529. It was originally identified in Botswana. Cases have arisen there and in South Africa.

South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe are on the “red list”, meaning there are more travel restrictions for people living in the UK. People who do not live in the UK are not allowed to travel to the UK from these countries.

Javid said the variant has not yet been discovered in the UK and that its implications are still unclear. But based on the early indications, it may be more transmissible than the Delta variant, and our current vaccines may be less effective against it, he said.

“Our scientists are deeply concerned about this variant. I am obviously concerned, that is one of the reasons why we have taken this action,” Javid said during the briefing.

Delta, a variant first discovered in 2020, currently accounts for 99.9% of new coronavirus cases in the United States, according to ABC News. It had mutations compared to the last strain that helped make it more contagious in comparison.

The latest variant, which is likely to be assigned a Greek code name similar to Delta and the former dominant Alpha variant of the WHO, has more than 50 mutations in total and more than 30 on the tip protein, Professor Tulio de Oliveira, director of the Center for Epidemic Response and Innovation in South Africa, said during a briefing Thursday.

The variant appears to be responsible for an increase in coronavirus cases in South Africa, according to officials. At least 100 cases have been confirmed through sequencing tests, up from just 10 registered cases on Wednesday.

After Sunday morning, people traveling from these countries will be quarantined for 10 days in government-approved hotels, according to Javid. From noon on Friday, the government will suspend all flights from these countries until the hotel quarantine system is up and running, according to the BBC.

The WHO will meet on Friday to further analyze the situation. Javid stressed that we do not know enough about the variant yet, but said the restrictions were intended to protect Britain’s progress to date.

“It’s a real reminder to all of us that this pandemic is not over,” he said.

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