Newsdeck

UK red lists SA, again

U.K. Stops Some Flights From Africa Over Covid Variant Worries

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER
By Bloomberg
26 Nov 2021 9

(Bloomberg) --The U.K. will temporarily ban flights from South Africa and five neighboring countries over worries about a new, dramatically different Covid-19 variant recently identified in the region.

By Naomi Kresge
Nov 25, 2021, 10:49 PM – Updated on Nov 26, 2021, 12:21 AM
Word Count: 645

The travel restrictions go into effect at noon Friday and are a precautionary measure to keep the spread of the new variant in check, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said. The six African countries will be placed on the U.K.’s red list as of Sunday, requiring travelers to quarantine in hotels upon arrival.

The Duke Of Cambridge Attends The Royal Foundation Emergency Service Health Symposium
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM – NOVEMBER
Israel also has banned travel from the six countries, along with Mozambique, another neighbor of South Africa, BNO News said in a tweet, without citing the source of the information.

Scientists are still trying to determine whether the new variant, called B.1.1529, is more transmissible or more lethal than previous ones. What’s clear is that it has the most mutations of any strain yet identified. That’s raised concerns inside South Africa and internationally, with authorities fearing a wave of cases that could increase pressure on already strained health-care systems.

“As part of our close surveillance of variants across the world, we have become aware of the spread of a new potentially concerning variant,” Javid said in a statement, adding that the new strain it’s now under investigation.

Bloomberg Quicktake

@Quicktake

“We almost can predict how this is going to move.”
Sent via QuickTake by Bloomberg.

View original tweet.

Scientists in South Africa are studying a new coronavirus variant of concern trib.al/btI51kf
The U.K.’s move is a further blow to the airline industry, which was starting to recover from earlier travel restrictions and lockdowns but now faces fresh curbs and a resurgent virus in parts of Europe. The measures announced Thursday mark the biggest change in the U.K.’s Covid travel rules since the so-called traffic light system was overhauled earlier in the autumn to ease border crossings.

From 500 to 700 people daily arrive in the U.K. via South Africa on flights, a number that would normally be expected to increase in the next four to six weeks due to seasonal travel.

Other Countries
In addition to South Africa, the countries covered by the new restrictions are Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Botswana.

In South Africa, virologists have detected almost 100 cases linked to the new variant to date, according to Anne von Gottberg, a clinical microbiologist and head of respiratory diseases at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases. No cases have been identified in the U.K., the health department said.

World Health Organization officials have met to discuss the variant, which has also been detected in Botswana, where it’s been found in people who were vaccinated against Covid.

“Armed by our experience and understanding of the alpha and delta variants, we know that early action is far better than late action,” Ewan Birney, deputy director general of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, said in a Science Media Centre briefing note. “It may turn out that this variant is not as large a threat as alpha and delta, but the potential consequences of not acting on the possibility it could be are serious.”

The new variant probably evolved during a chronic infection of an immuno-compromised person, possibly in an untreated HIV/AIDS patient, said Francois Balloux, director of the UCL Genetics Institute. The world’s biggest number of HIV cases has made it more difficult for South Africa to fight the Covid pandemic, because the virus can linger for longer in people whose immune systems are compromised, potentially offering a bigger window for mutations.

WHO experts are meeting Friday with authorities from South Africa, according to U.K. officials. It will take several weeks to see the impact of the new variant on hospitalizations and deaths and to study how it may interact with vaccines.

Covid Variants Risk Rises in S. Africa With Biggest HIV Epidemic

–With assistance from Prinesha Naidoo and S’thembile Cele.

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Gallery

Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or sign in if you are already an Insider.

Everybody has an opinion but not everyone has the knowledge and the experience to contribute meaningfully to a discussion. That’s what we want from our members. Help us learn with your expertise and insights on articles that we publish. We encourage different, respectful viewpoints to further our understanding of the world. View our comments policy here.

All Comments 9

  • Such rubbish from UK health Minister when he claims they became aware as part of our THEIR close surveillance. Our brilliant SA scientists picked it up up, investigated it, and immediately did the right thing by alerting the world in a huge media briefing. Infuriating statement at a grim time.
    He should be saying we thank SA for their excellent surveillance system and their quick action in alerting the world

  • Six weeks ago we had a whatsapp circular that advised the decision that by Xmas we are going to be back on full lockdown and a 4th wave will be upon us. Now we find new variants, all on time.
    Coincidences?

  • “The new variant probably evolved during a chronic infection of an immuno-compromised person, possibly in an untreated HIV/AIDS patient, said Francois Balloux, director of the UCL Genetics Institute.”

    Would be interested to hear what our virology experts have to say about this. It seems a very convenient way of indicating the variant “probably” arose here in SA when equally easily it could have originated outside our borders. Just because we detected it first , there should not be “knee jerk” type reactions which automatically label us as point of origin.

  • The message from the world command council is to get vaccinated or isolate oneself permanently. We can respect and debate different views on the most appropriate response to Covid, but the Gods have spoken. Get vaccinated or stay home. This ban is not going to be easily lifted until we achieve a high level of compliance, so knuckle down to it.

  • We have only ourselves to blame for this ban. By refusing to face the chief cause of severe Covid reactions, namely type 2 diabetes and obesity, for fear of being labelled “fat bashers.” It was and still is exactly the same for HIV, fear of not being PC about obesity and unsafe sexual practices, so both diseases will continue to flourish in SA.
    And so we are listed as the 8th most unhealthy country in the world; we cannot blame the world for not wanting to associate with us.