New Covid variant 'worst one we've seen so far', say UK experts 7 months ago

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".


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.

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