- Belgium has detected the first case of the new COVID-19 variant detected in South Africa.
- European Union's executive also said it wants to stop air travel from southern Africa.
- UK announced that it was banning flights from South Africa and five other southern African countries
Belgium has detected the first case of the new COVID-19 variant detected in South Africa on Friday, in an unvaccinated person returning from abroad, reported news agency AFP.
The detection of the new Covid variant has put many countries, including India, on high alert. Hours after the announcement, the Centre issued an advisory to states, UTs for international travelers from specified countries.
The European Union's executive said on Friday it wants to stop air travel from southern Africa to counter the spread of a new COVID-19 variant. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement that she proposes, in close coordination with the member states, to activate the emergency brake to stop air travel from the southern African region.
A fourth spike of the coronavirus is hitting the 27-nation EU especially badly, with governments scrambling to tighten restrictions in an attempt to contain spread. The flight ban proposal came in the wake of similar action from Britain on Thursday.
The UK announced that it was banning flights from South Africa and five other southern African countries effective at noon on Friday, and that anyone who had recently arrived from those countries would be asked to take a coronavirus test. UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid said there were concerns the new variant may be more transmissible than the dominant delta strain, and the vaccines that we currently have may be less effective against it.
The coronavirus evolves as it spreads and many new variants, including those with worrying mutations, often just die out. Scientists monitor for possible changes that could be more transmissible or deadly, but sorting out whether new variants will have a public health impact can take time. Currently identified as B.1.1.529, the new variant has also been found in Botswana and Hong Kong in travelers from South Africa, he said.