LONDON, United Kingdom- After South Africa detected a new COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529 with a large number of mutations, Britain announced it would ban travel from six southern African countries.
According to Sajid Javid of the Department of Health, “the early indications are that this variant is likely to be more contagious than the Delta variant and that our current vaccines may be less effective against it.”
He said the new variant had not yet been detected in Britain, which South Africa attributed to an increase in cases and had also been detected in travellers from the country in Botswana and Hong Kong.
British scientists, he said, were “deeply concerned” and, as a precaution, all flights out of South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Botswana have been suspended as of Friday.
“Any traveler arriving from these countries after 4:00 am on Sunday will have to undergo quarantine in a hotel,” he added.
“In the event that anyone arrives before the deadline, they should self-isolate at home and do PCR tests on day two and day eight.”
“And anyone who has arrived from any of those countries in the past 10 days should undergo PCR testing.”
COVID-19 has caused 144,000 deaths in Britain since the outbreak began early last year, with Britain among the hardest hit.
More than 47,000 positive cases were recorded in the 24-hour period ended Thursday, but more than 80 percent of those aged 12 and over have been immunized twice.
A third booster dose has been administered to nearly 29 percent, in a government initiative to ease the pressure on already overburdened health services during the winter, during which other seasonal respiratory infections are prevalent.
At the height of the pandemic, Britain’s government received widespread criticism for its lenient travel and quarantine policy, which allowed foreign travellers to enter the country despite spiralling infection rates.