Travel Restrictions to Combat New Covid Variant
Nations are cancelling flights and restricting travel after the emergence of a new Covid variant.
The new Covid-19 variant, called B.1.1.529, is concerning scientists because it is heavily mutated, which could make it more transmissible and resistant to vaccines. More than 100 cases have been identified so far mostly in South Africa, but also in Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong.
The chief medical adviser to the UK Health Security Agency, Dr Susan Hopkins, is warning the newly identified Covid-19 variant is the “most worrying we’ve seen” in the pandemic to date. Mainland Europe is already battling a new wave of Covid-19, with rising cases and tighter restrictions across the region.
A growing number of nations including the UK, Germany, Italy, Israel and Singapore have moved to restrict travel and halt flights from southern Africa. The UK has temporarily halted flights from six countries: South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia. UK and Irish residents who arrive from these countries after 4am on Sunday will have to enter hotel quarantine.
The EU chief Ursula von der Leyen proposed on Friday to ban flights from the region across the whole bloc. Europe is already alarmed about surging Covid cases with Austria in a full lockdown, the Netherlands in a partial lockdown and a 30-day state of emergency in the Czech Republic. Other European countries are tightening rules and banning Christmas markets.
The @EU_Commission will propose, in close coordination with Member States, to activate the emergency brake to stop air travel from the southern African region due to the variant of concern B.1.1.529.— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) November 26, 2021
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