The EU wants to stop flights from southern Africa due to new COVID-19 variant

The European Union’s Executive Board said on Friday that it wanted to halt flights from southern Africa to counter the proliferation of a new COVID-19 variant.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement that she “proposes, in close coordination with the Member States, to activate the emergency brake to stop flights from the southern African region.”

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A new variant of coronavirus has been discovered in South Africa, as scientists say, is a concern due to its high number of mutations and rapid spread among young people in Gauteng, the country’s most populous province.

A fourth rise in coronavirus is hitting the 27 EU countries particularly hard, with governments struggling to tighten restrictions in an effort to curb the spread. The no-fly motion came in the wake of similar action from Britain on Thursday.

The United Kingdom announced that it was banning flights from South Africa and five other South African countries with effect at noon on Friday, and that anyone who had recently arrived from those countries would be asked to take a coronavirus test.

British Health Secretary Sajid Javid said there was concern that the new variant “may be more transmissible” than the dominant delta strain and “the vaccines we currently have may be less effective” against it.

The coronavirus evolves as it spreads, and many new variants, including those with worrying mutations, often just die out. Researchers are monitoring for possible changes that may be more transmissible or fatal, but it may take time to find out if new variants will have an impact on public health.

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Currently identified as B.1.1.529, the new variant has also been found in Botswana and Hong Kong among travelers from South Africa, he said.

The World Health Organization’s technical working group is meeting on Friday to assess the new variant and can decide whether to give it a name from the Greek alphabet.

Read more:

The UK says the new COVID-19 variant is the most significant yet found

South Africa says British travel ban due to new COVID-19 variant seems ‘hasty’

Australia investigates new COVID-19 variant found in South Africa

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