The European Union has urged Member States will ban air travel with South Africa and at least six other countries because of a new variant of the coronavirus that has now sunk global stocks.
The new variant called B.1.1.529 is of international concern because it carries an extremely high number of mutations that make it look “dramatically” different from the version that COVID-19 vaccines were designed to target.
“This variant surprised us, it took a big leap in evolution and many more mutations than we expected.” said the Director of the Center for Epidemics Response and Innovation in South Africa.
The country has detected more than 1,000 cases of the new variant, most concentrated in Gauteng province.
According to Bloomberg, two cases were discovered in Hong Kong earlier this month. A man who arrived in the country from South Africa reportedly passed the infection on to another quarantined passenger across the aisle.
Other cases were also detected in Botswana, Israel and Belgium.
The United Kingdom flights suspended from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Swatini with immediate effect from Friday.
“Our scientists are deeply concerned about this variant … this is one of the reasons we are taking these steps today,” the UK Health Secretary told reporters.
Germany will only allow repatriation flights for nationals and permanent residents. These arrivals must now go through a mandatory 14-day quarantine, regardless of their vaccination status.
Italy was one of the first countries to react. He banned everyone who was in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia or Swatini in the last 14 days.
France suspended flights from the region for 48 hours when deciding future actions.
The Czech Republic is barring travelers who have spent more than 12 hours in the last 14 days in the southern African region.
countries outside the EU
Israel, Singapore and Malaysia immediately suspended all travel from southern African countries. Returning travelers will be quarantined.
Japan and India have not yet suspended flights, but have announced strict restrictions.
International travel has not been the only economic sector affected so far. Global stocks and oil prices tumbled today after the news broke and the EU proposed suspending air travel to southern Africa.
At the opening, London stocks tumbled by an extraordinarily wide margin of 3.3%. Tokyo lost 2.5%. And Shanghai, Frankfurt, Hong Kong and Wall Street also posted losses.