A new COVID-19 super variant has forced the UK government to suspend flights from six countries in Southern Africa.
UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid said:
Flights from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe will be suspended from midday on Friday 26/11/2021 and all six countries will be added to the red list,
The new variant – called B.1.1.529 – was identified in South Africa and “may be more transmissible” than the Delta strain and added “the vaccines that we currently have may be less effective”. “Our scientists are deeply concerned about this variant. I’m concerned, of course, that’s one of the reasons we have taken this action today,” he said.
The health Secretary was pressed on what the new development would mean for the United Kingdom as Christmas approaches.
“We’ve got plans in place, as people know, for the spread of this infection here in the UK and we have contingency plans – the so-called Plan B.
“But today’s announcement, this is about a new variant from South Africa – it’s been detected in South Africa and Botswana – and this is about being cautious and taking action and trying to protect, as best we can, our borders.”
What we know about the new “Super Variant”
Experts were so alarmed at the new variant they have described it as the “worse we’ve seen so far”
UK scientists from the Imperial college London sounded the alarm on Thursday night.
The new variant is capable of evading immunity built up by vaccination or prior infection.
No cases have been found in Britain.
South Africa has reported a 100 cases, also Botswana, and Hong Kong have reported cases.
The World Health Organization is currently watching developments across all countries concerned and will be conveying a meeting later today 26/11/2021 to determine if this is a variant of interest or variant of concern.
In a statement they said:
“So far under 100 sequences have been reported. Early analysis shows that this variant has a large number of mutations that require and will undergo further study to better understand the timeline for studies that are underway and to determine if this variant should be designated as a variant of interest or variant of concern.”