After the surge in cases of severely mutated coronavirus variants has raised the alarm of global health officials, the UK will put six southern African countries back on its red list of travel restrictions.
Government officials said that travelers returning from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Eswatini will be quarantined in government facilities for 10 days starting at noon on Friday.
Starting at noon on Friday, direct flights from six countries will be banned until hotel quarantine begins at 4 am on Sunday.
The new travel restrictions in the United Kingdom caused the South African Rand to fall by 1.3% to 16, which is the currency’s lowest level in a year.
After scientists discovered the ability of the B.1.1.529 Sars-Cov-2 variant to evade vaccines and spread faster than the Delta variant, the rules changed. The strain was first discovered in Botswana and is believed to be the reason why South Africa’s new coronavirus cases have returned in the past week.
The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid (Sajid Javid) said that the UK Health Security Agency “is investigating a new variant. More data is needed, but we are now taking preventive measures.”
He said in a tweet that starting at noon on Friday, “six African countries will be added to the red list, flights will be temporarily banned, and British travelers must be isolated.”
The World Health Organization will hold an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss this new variant, and is expected to designate the strain as an “variant of interest” at the meeting. According to Haaretz, earlier on Thursday, Israel banned travelers from South Africa and neighboring countries.
This variant is described as the most worrying variant of coronavirus that researchers have encountered. Unconfirmed data seems to indicate that it is spreading faster in South Africa than people think. In recent weeks, the rate of positive results in South Africa has increased.
The genomes of at least 59 variants mainly from South Africa have been sequenced. But local health officials told the Financial Times that early PCR results showed that of the 1,100 new cases in Gauteng, South Africa, including Johannesburg, on Wednesday, 90% were caused by the new variant.
Tulio de Oliveira, director of the South Africa Epidemic Response and Innovation Center, told the Financial Times that he was “worried” by the pressure.
De Oliveira said that the new variants have features that were previously associated with high infectivity. “The key question to answer is what exactly is the impact on the vaccine,” he added.
WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan said that this new variant “has many worrying mutations in the spike protein.” The WHO said in a statement: “Early analysis shows that this variant has a large number of mutations, and further research is needed and will be carried out.”
UKHSA CEO Dr. Jenny Harries described it as “the most important variant we have encountered so far, and urgent research is currently underway to further understand its spread, severity and vaccine sensitivity.”
She added that this “clearly reminds everyone that this pandemic is not over yet.”
Professor Christina Page, a member of the Independent Sage Scientific Advisory Panel, welcomed the decision of the British government. “We are currently ahead of [this variant] In the UK,” she said. “While we learn more, taking action now is our best opportunity to prevent imports. “
Ivan Bernie, deputy director of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, called for international assistance for South Africa to fight this new strain. “The international community should ship drugs and vaccines to South Africa as soon as possible,” Bernie said.
South Africa and other countries in the region Only in October did it disappear from the pre-UK red list. At the beginning of this year, the region imposed travel restrictions for the first time. Beta variantt, has been replaced by Delta.
The new Red List may dash South Africa’s hopes of saving this year’s summer tourist season, which is vital to the economy. Business leaders and officials in the country have long believed that they were punished for having relatively advanced genome monitoring capabilities.
Additional reporting by Sebastian Payne and Philip Georgiadis in London and Hudson Lockett in Hong Kong