New, fast-spreading variant has countries closing their borders and imposing travel restrictions
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The UK says the COVID-19 variant is the most significant variant found and has called travel restrictions a “huge international concern”.
CDC says they need more data on the new COVID-19 variant but have already banned entry into the United States from 8 countries. However, authorities found the first European case of the new variant in Belgium today.
The new variant
Although there is still little data on the new variant, scientists believe that the B.1.1.529 variant started in South Africa before spreading to parts of Africa, Hong Kong and now Belgium. .
Scientists are concerned because the variant has over 30 mutations on its spike protein, which is the key used to unlock cells in our body. That’s more than double the number of the Delta variant.
As a result, scientists fear that the new variant – which is completely different from the variant found in Wuhan almost two years ago – could escape vaccines.
Scientists suggest, based on previous evidence, that the variant may be more likely to infect and re-infect people who are immune to the earlier variants.
Professor James Naismith, Director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute at the University of Oxford, declared, “It’s bad news, but it’s not the end of the world.”
New travel restrictions
As news of the new variant spreads around the world, travel restrictions appear. It’s a devastating blow to the travel industry, which had hoped for a strong recovery this winter until cases escalated in Europe and the new variant emerged.
The following countries have already imposed a ban or restrictions on travel from much of southern Africa:
Italy announcement measures prohibiting entry into Italy for travelers from the following countries:
- South Africa
German Minister of Health Jens Spahn noted airlines from South Africa will only be able to transport German citizens to their homes.
Once in Germany, they will need to be quarantined for 14 days, regardless of their vaccination status.
The European Union
The President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen noted it proposes to implement restrictions “with member states, to activate the emergency brake to stop air travel from the southern African region”.
However, to date the EU has taken no action on the ban on flights from southern Africa to the EU.
The United Kingdom
The UK has already started restricting flights from the following countries:
- South Africa
Travelers from these countries will be required to self-isolate under quarantine at the hotel for 10 days in the UK after 4 a.m. GMT on Sunday, regardless of their vaccination status. Quarantine costs over Â£ 2,000.
The United States is on the verge of severely restricting travel from South Africa and 7 other countries in southern Africa. As of Monday, only US citizens and legal residents will be able to travel to the United States from countries.
Japan has limit travel from the following countries due to the emergence of the new variant:
- South Africa
Travelers from those countries will need to spend 14 days in a government-designated facility, followed by an additional four days in home quarantine.
The travel industry’s response
The new variant and subsequent travel restrictions resulted in a significant drop in Boeing actions overnight.
Virgin Atlantic has announced that it will cancel all flights from Johannesburg from Friday to Sunday morning due to new UK rules.
Delta Airlines said, “Delta will continue to work closely with our government partners to assess any changes in US policy,”
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