World takes action as new variant emerges in southern Africa

World takes action as new variant emerges in southern Africa

Brussels: A slew of nations moved to stop air travel from southern Africa on Friday, and stocks plunged in Asia and Europe in reaction to news of a new, potentially more transmissible COVID-19 variant.

The last thing we need is to bring in a new variant that will cause even more problems, said German Health Minister Jens Spahn, amid a massive spike in cases in the 27-nation European Union, which is recommending a ban on flights from southern African nations.

Within a few days of the discovery of the new variant, it has already impacted on a jittery world that is sensitive to bad COVID-19 news, with deaths around the globe standing at well over 5 million.

Medical experts, including the World Health Organization, warned against any overreaction before all elements were clear but nations who acted said their concerns were justified.

Early indications show this variant may be more transmissable than the delta variant and current vaccines may be less effective against it, British Health Secretary Sajid Javid told lawmakers. "We must move quickly and at the earliest possible moment, he said.

Belgium became the first European Union country to announce a case of the variant.

Israel, one of the world's most vaccinated countries, announced Friday that it has also detected the country's first case of the new variant, in a traveler who returned from Malawi. The traveler and two other suspected cases have been placed in isolation. It said all three are vaccinated but that it is currently looking into their exact vaccination status.

The WHO cautioned not to jump to conclusions too fast.

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agreed and it strongly discourages the imposition of travel ban for people originating from countries that have reported this variant, it said in a statement. It added that over the duration of this pandemic, we have observed that imposing bans on travelers from countries where a new variant is reported has not yielded a meaningful outcome.

The U.K. announced that it was banning flights from South Africa and five other southern African countries effective at noon on Friday, and that anyone who had recently arrived from those countries would be asked to take a Coronavirus test.

Germany said its flight ban could be enacted as soon as Friday night.

Italy's health ministry also announced measures to ban entry into Italy of anyone who has been in seven southern African nations South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini in the past 14 days due to the new variant. The Netherlands and the Czech Republic are planning similar measures.

Meanwhile, advisers to the World Health Organization are holding a special session Friday to flesh out information about a worrying new variant of the Coronavirus that has emerged in South Africa, though a top expert says its impact on COVID-19 vaccines may not be known for weeks.

Next Story
Share it