Britain suspends flights to six African countries as new version of Covid raises alarms

British Health Secretary Sajid Javid will address a press conference on Downing Street on 20 October 2021 in London, England.

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The UK is temporarily suspending flights from six countries as a new variant of Covid with more than 30 mutations spreads in South Africa.

The UK Minister for Health and Social Affairs, Sajid Javid, announced the matter hours after the World Health Organization announced the new version. The organization called a special meeting on Friday to look more closely at a variant that has been observed in small quantities in South Africa.

“More information is needed, but we are now taking precautions. After half a day tomorrow, six African countries will be red-listed, flights will be temporarily banned and UK passengers will have to be quarantined,” Javid wrote on Twitter.

According to The Guardian, in addition to South Africa, the new restrictions include Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Botswana.

The World Health Organization will hold a special meeting on Friday to discuss what the new version could mean for vaccines and treatments, authorities said Thursday.

According to the WHO, a variant called B.1.1.529 has been detected in small quantities in South Africa. The variant has spread rapidly in Gauteng Province, which includes the country’s largest city, Johannesburg.

The variant has also been spotted in Botswana and Hong Kong, South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla said at a news conference.

“We don’t know much about this yet. We know that this variant has a large number of mutations. And the concern is that having so many mutations can affect the behavior of the virus,” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO Technical Director Covid-19: said in Q&A, which was broadcast live on the organization’s social media channels.

A recently observed variation is arriving as infection levels remain high in countries around the world. In Europe, Austria and Italy announced in recent days new restrictions aimed at slowing down the spread of the virus.

South African researchers have identified more than 30 mutations in the new variant, raising concerns that it might better avoid the antibody protection created by vaccines and previous infections.

Countries have used flight or total travel restrictions as a tool to slow the spread of Covid since the early days of the pandemic. The United States has just lifted a travel ban on 33 countries, including the UK, earlier this month.

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