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

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  • Britain’s Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid made the announcement hours after the World Health Organization briefed about the new version.
  • The organization convened a special meeting on Friday to further study the version, which has been found to be low in South Africa.

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The United Kingdom is temporarily suspending flights from six countries as a new Covid variant with more than 30 mutations spread to South Africa.

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Britain’s Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid made the announcement hours after the World Health Organization briefed about the new version. The organization convened a special meeting on Friday to further study the version, which has been found to be low in South Africa.

Javid wrote on Twitter: “More data is needed but we are taking precautions now. From tomorrow afternoon six African countries will be added to the red list, flights temporarily banned and UK travelers to quarantine “

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In addition to South Africa, the countries of Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Botswana are among the new sanctions, according to Guardian,

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

According to the WHO, a small number of variants named B.1.1.529 have been detected in South Africa. The variant has spread rapidly through Gauteng province, which includes the country’s largest city, Johannesburg.

The variant has also been detected in Botswana and Hong Kong, South African Health Minister Joe Fahala said during the briefing.

“We don’t know a lot about it yet. What we do know is that this variant carries a large number of mutations. And the concern is that when you have so many mutations, it can affect the behavior of the virus.” “WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, said in a Q&A that was livestreamed on the organisation’s social media channels.

The newly detected variant comes as infection levels remain high in countries around the world. In Europe, Austria and Italy announced new restrictions in recent days aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.

South African scientists have detected more than 30 mutations in the new variant, raising concerns that it may possibly better evade the antibody protection created by vaccines and prior infections.

Since the early days of the pandemic, countries have used restrictions on flights or total travel as a tool to slow the spread of COVID-19. Earlier this month, the US lifted travel restrictions from 33 countries, including the UK.

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