The UK has suspended travel from South Africa, after scientists here detected a new COVID-19 variant with a large number of mutations.
The UK’s Health Secretary Sajid Javid yesterday said the variant, B.1.1.529, had not been found so far in Britain.
As a precaution a decision has been taken to suspend all flights from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Botswana from 12:00 GMT on Friday.
Anyone that arrives from those countries from 04:00 AM on Sunday will be required to quarantine in hotels.
If anyone arrives before then they should self-isolate at home and take a PCR test on day two and day eight. If anyone has arrived from any of those countries over the last 10 days, the will need to take PCR tests.
The Department of Health, as well as scientists from the Network for Genomic Surveillance in South Africa, yesterday announced the detection of the new Covid-19 virus variant in South Africa.
Professor Tulio de Oliveira who is the director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (Krisp) says the variant surprised them, and that it has a “big jump in evolution.”
“Many of the mutations are of concern for immune evasion and transmissibility. We can see the variant potentially spreading very fast… We do expect, unfortunately, to start seeing pressure in the healthcare system in the next few days and weeks.”
But he emphasized vaccines remain the critical tool to protect from severe disease due to Covid-19.