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(BRUSSELS) #Coronavirus Report: All 27 E.U. member states and the U.K. have temporarily suspended travel to southern Africa following the discovery of a new #COVID19 variant #AceHealthDesk report

#AceHealthReport – Nov.28: The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday classified the B.1.1.529 variant, now designated as Omicron, as a SARS-CoV-2 “variant of concern”, saying it may spread more quickly than other forms.

#CoronavirusNewsDesk and the #Omicron (OMEGA) #COVID19 variant outbreak sees Europe shutting borders to African nations AND U.K. add four more red list countries to the the ones GOVUK report we published here the other day….as other countries such as USA and others prepare to close borders …..

Play Video. Duration: 4 minutes 16 seconds
Twenty-two COVID cases in South Africa have been linked to the “concerning” new variant.

Infections in South Africa had risen steeply in recent weeks, coinciding with the detection of the variant.

After a closed meeting of independent experts who reviewed the data, WHO realised a statement saying there had been a “detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology”.

The travel restrictions are to apply to the nations of South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

The border measures follow a confirmed case of the new variant being in Belgium.

Virologist Marc Van Ranst, whose laboratory works closely with Belgium’s public health body Sciensano, said on Twitter that the variant was found in a traveller returning to Belgium from Egypt on November 11.

Italy’s health ministry earlier announced that the measures would apply to anyone who has been to the seven southern African nations in the past 14 days.

Germany said a flight ban could be imposed as early as Friday night, local time.

In Amsterdam, several hundred passengers arriving on two flights from South Africa on Friday already faced hours of delays and testing due to concerns over the new variant.

“This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other [variants of concern],” the WHO said.

“This variant has been detected at faster rates than previous surges in infection, suggesting that this variant may have a growth advantage.”

Omicron is the fifth variant to carry such a designation: This is what we knowAfter a new COVID-19 variant emerged in southern Africa, scientists, health officials and the public are concerned, and the World Health Organization is monitoring the situation closely.

Current PCR tests continue to successfully detect the variant, WHO said.

South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla called the travel restrictions “unjustified”, telling a media briefing that travel bans contravened the norms and standards of the World Health Organization (WHO).

He specifically lashed out at Britain, saying it had imposed travel restrictions on his country without prior discussion.

A red sign on  UK street reads COVID-19 stay 2m apart with description of two people walking socially distanced
The UK has temporarily banned incoming flights from South Africa and five neighbouring countries. (Reuters: Andrew Boyers)

Away from Europe, Israel also imposed a travel ban covering most of Africa.

“We are currently on the verge of a state of emergency,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said.

Under the broader restrictions, all African nations, except those in North Africa, were added to Israel’s “red list” of high-risk countries.

Morocco has also banned travel from seven southern African countries.

Asian nations follow suit

Japan, Hong Kong and the Philippines also all imposed new travel restrictions.

The Philippines announced flights from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Mozambique are banned until December 15.

A man receives a vaccine while a health worker behind looks inside a room on a train
The new variant was first detected in South Africa.(Reuters: Siphiwe Sibeko )

Hong Kong’s government said it will ban non-Hong Kong residents arriving from eight southern African states from entering the territory if they had stayed in those countries within the past 21 days: A new COVID-19 variant has been detected in South Africa.

The measure, effective from Saturday, affects people arriving from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

“Along with South Africa which is already a specified high-risk place, non-Hong Kong residents who have stayed in these places within 21 days will not be allowed to enter the city”, it said.

Despite the bans the WHO cautioned countries from doing so too quickly. 

“At this point, implementing travel measures is being cautioned against,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said.

“The WHO recommends that countries continue to apply a risk-based and scientific approach when implementing travel measures.”

A senior South African health official said he had been told on Friday that the WHO would designate the new strain a variant “of concern”.

“We are busy trying to get some information behind the scenes about what was discussed at the WHO meeting today,” Nicholas Crisp, acting director general in the health department, told a media briefing.

“Earlier in the day I just got a message to say that they were going to promote this variant to a variant of concern.”

US considering travel ban, says Fauci

Dr Anthony Fauci, taking off his mask to speak into a microphone at a hearing in Washington.
Dr Anthony Fauci says the United States is working with their counterparts in South Africa.(AP: Kevin Dietsch)

Top US infectious disease official Dr Anthony Fauci said a ban on flights from southern Africa was a possibility and the United States was rushing to gather data on the new COVID-19 variant.

“There is always the possibility of doing what the UK has done, namely block travel from South Africa and related countries,” Dr Fauci told CNN.

“That’s certainly something you think about and get prepared to do. You’re prepared to do everything you need to protect the American public. But you want to make sure there’s a basis for doing that.”

“Obviously as soon as we find out more information we’ll make a decision as quickly as we possibly can.”

Mr Fauci said US scientists would speak with South African counterparts on Friday about the new variant but also said there was no evidence the variant had arrived in the US.

Play Video. Duration: 3 minutes 18 seconds
What COVID-19 travel insurance doesn’t cover you for(Emilia Terzon)


#AceHealthDesk report ………….Published: Nov.28: 2021:

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