The UK government has imposed temporary travel restrictions on six African countries following the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant in South Africa.
A new variant of the coronavirus, B.1.1.529, was discovered in South Africa three days ago and 59 cases have been confirmed in South Africa, Hong Kong, and Botswana.
Although the variant is yet to be detected in the UK, it has gone ahead to announce that travelers from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, and Eswatini, will not be allowed into their shores from 12:00 GMT Friday (1 p.m. Nigerian time).
According to Sajid Javid, the UK health secretary, “the UK Health Security Agency is investigating a new variant. More data is needed but we’re taking precautions now.”
“From noon tomorrow, November 26, six African countries will be added to the red list, flights will be temporarily banned, and UK travellers must quarantine.”
Experts have said that the B.1.1.529 variant could be the most lethal and worrying yet. This is because of its “awful spike mutation profile”, which scientists fear could help it evade immunity. Early reports suggest it is capable of reducing vaccine efficiency to just 30 per cent.
“The first indications we have of this variant are that it may be more transmissible than the Delta variant and that the vaccines we currently have may be less effective,” Mr Javid said.
According to him, British scientists are “very concerned” by this variant.
“We will ask anyone arriving from these countries from 4 a.m. on Sunday to quarantine themselves in hotels,” Mr Javid said, adding that those arriving before that date will have to self-isolate and do two PCR tests on the second and eighth day of their confinement.
“And if someone has arrived from these countries in the last ten days, we will ask them to do PCR tests,” he added.
The WHO will hold a special meeting following the emergence of this new variant.