New Covid variant 'worst one we've seen so far', say UK experts
The UK government has brought in urgent travel restrictions for six African countries
A new Covid variant, not only thought to be more transmissible than the Delta variant but being labelled as "the worst one we've seen so far", has led the UK government to apply immediate travel restrictions to six African nations said to be under threat.
The new 'super strain' designated B.1.1.529, which had previously been identified in South Africa earlier this year, is thought to spread more quickly than any other type of Covid-19 and Health Secretary Sajid Javid says that "the vaccines that we currently have may be less effective".
The Hong Kong government detected two cases of a new coronavirus variant identified in South Africa, which scientists have warned shows a “big jump in evolution” and could limit the effectiveness of vaccines. https://t.co/5k10iiIf56
— The New York Times (@nytimes) November 26, 2021
As such, flights from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe have all been suspended until 4am on Sunday at the very least, though further travel restrictions could come into place.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps described the move as a "safety first approach".
One of the dangers of the South African variant is that the variant is said to have as many 30 mutations - twice as many as the Delta variant - making it much more difficult to treat as the virus adapts to evade the immune response that follows infection and vaccination.
Experts believe the variant can still be detected by a regular PCR test and as such, those returning from South Africa and the other red-listed countries on the continent before the 12pm cut off today will be thoroughly and carefully tested.
While no one is reported to have tested positive for the in the UK so far, about 500-700 people travel between the UK and South Africa alone each day and these figures are naturally expected to increase as we approach Christmas.
Scientists are deeply concerned about the spread of this new Covid variant, with 59 confirmed cases in South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana. Anyone who has travelled from one of these countries in the past 10 days is being invited to come forward.
- Met Office issue danger to life warning as Storm Arwen heads to UK
- Martin Lewis offers stern advice to Bulb customers after company goes into administration
- Three children and pregnant woman among those dead in Channel crossing