UK suspends flights to six African countries as new Covid variant raises alarms

The United Kingdom is quickly suspending flights from six countries as a new Covid variant with greater than 30 mutations spreads in South Africa.

Sajid Javid, the U.K.'s secretary of state for well being and social care, made the announcement hours after the World Health Organization gave a briefing on the new variant. The group referred to as for a particular assembly on Friday to additional examine the variant, which has been detected in small numbers in South Africa.

"More data is needed but we're taking precautions now. From noon tomorrow six African countries will be added to the red list, flights will be temporarily banned, and UK travellers must quarantine," Javid wrote on Twitter.

In addition to South Africa, the countries of Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Botswana are included within the new restrictions, in accordance to a press release issued by the U.K.'s well being, transport and well being safety companies.

The WHO is holding a particular assembly Friday to focus on what the new variant could imply for vaccines and coverings, officers mentioned Thursday.

The variant, referred to as B.1.1.529, has been detected in South Africa in small numbers, in accordance to the WHO. The variant has unfold quickly by means of the Gauteng province, which incorporates the nation's largest metropolis of Johannesburg.

The variant has additionally been detected in Botswana and Hong Kong, South Africa Minister of Health Joe Phaahla mentioned in the course of the briefing.

"We don't know very much about this yet. What we do know is that this variant has a large number of mutations. And the concern is that when you have so many mutations, it can have an impact on how the virus behaves," Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO's technical lead on Covid-19, mentioned in a Q&A that was livestreamed on the group's social media channels.

The newly detected variant arrives as an infection ranges stay excessive in countries internationally. In Europe, Austria and Italy introduced new restrictions in current days geared toward slowing the unfold of the virus.

South African scientists have detected greater than 30 mutations within the new variant, elevating concern that it may presumably higher evade the antibody safety created by vaccines and prior infections.

Countries have used restrictions on flights or whole journey as a instrument to sluggish the unfold of Covid because the early days of the pandemic. The U.S. simply lifted its journey ban from 33 countries, together with the U.K., earlier this month.

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