The British Secretary of State for Health said all flights from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Botswana were now suspended for fear of a new variant of the Covid -19.
On November 25, the United Kingdom announced that it would now ban entry to travelers from six African countries, after South Africa announced the discovery of a new variant of Covid -19 with multiple mutations.
[Ce variant] may be more transmissible than the Delta variant and the vaccines we currently have may be less effective
The Secretary of State for Health Sajid Javid thus announced that all flights from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), Zimbabwe and Botswana would be suspended from November 26 at 12 p.m. GMT (1 p.m. KST). “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,” added Sajid Javid.
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. However, no case has been detected in Great Britain. « We will ask anyone arriving from these countries from 4 a.m. on Sunday to quarantine themselves in hotels, » said Sajid Javid, adding that those arriving before this date will have to self-isolate and do two PCR tests in 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.
A « hasty » decision, according to the South African authorities
The South African Foreign Office reacted, saying Britain’s decision appeared « to have been rushed » as the World Health Organization has yet to give its opinion on the next steps to be taken for react to the appearance of this new variant.
« Our immediate concern is the damage this decision will cause to the tourism industries and businesses of both countries, » South African foreign minister Naledi Pandor said in a statement quoted by Reuters. The latter specifies that South Africa wants the British authorities to reconsider their decision.
The UK government had been widely criticized for being slow to tighten travel restrictions at the start of the pandemic, when it kept its borders open as infection rates skyrocketed. Britain has been among the countries hardest hit by Covid-19, with 144,000 deaths to date. The number of cases remains high there, with more than 47,000 contaminations recorded in the last 24 hours on November 25. More than 80% of people aged 12 and over received a double injection of the vaccine, and almost 30% had a third dose.