The European authorities have decided to react quickly. The European Commission has proposed to suspend flights from southern Africa due to the discovery of a new variant of Covid-19, its president, Ursula von der Leyen, announced on Friday, November 26.
The European executive is due to make a proposal to representatives of all member states at a meeting scheduled for Friday. It will then be up to the Council (institution representing the Twenty-Seven) to adopt such a recommendation. “The situation is changing very quickly; we want to make sure we do our best to slow the spread of this variant ” B.1.1.529, said a spokesperson for the Commission.
Scientists « very concerned »
Several countries did not wait for this meeting to make their decision. Italy has already announced the implementation of this measure, which concerns South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), according to the details of the Minister of Health, Roberto Speranza. In Asia, Singapore announced that travelers from the seven countries would be banned from entering the territory from Sunday. Germany, meanwhile, said on Friday that it would refuse foreign travelers from South Africa, the day after a similar decision from London.
« The first data we have of this variant is that it may be more transmissible than the Delta variant and that the vaccines we currently have may be less effective »British Secretary of State for Health Sajid Javid said on Thursday. According to him, British scientists are « Very concerned » by this variant, to which South Africa attributes the recent increase in cases recorded in the country and which has also been detected in travelers from Botswana or Hong Kong.
Israel also announced Friday morning that a first case of the B.1.1.529 variant had been detected on its soil. « This is a person who has returned from Malawi », said the health ministry, saying it fears « Two additional cases of persons returning from abroad » and placed in containment. These three people were vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the ministry.
WHO mid-day meeting
The World Health Organization (WHO) is organizing an expert meeting in Geneva on Friday noon on this new variant, said Christian Lindmeier, spokesperson for the WHO. It is « Better understand the chronology of studies that are in progress » and of « Determine whether this variant should be qualified as a variant of interest or a variant of concern », he said.
These announcements sent the stock markets plunging on Friday morning. The flagship CAC40 index of the Paris Bourse fell 4.40% at 9:22 a.m. (Paris time), London lost 3.31% and Frankfurt also yielded more than 3.19% shortly after the opening. Values linked to tourism or travel, already severely affected by the pandemic, were the most affected: the aircraft manufacturer Airbus dropped 12%, and the German airline Lufthansa, more than 14%.