Travellers from Southern Africa countries have been banned entry, due to the spread of a new COVID-19 variant (new B.1.1.529 variant) there, to the United States, Europe and Asia. Israel and Singapore have also imposed restrictions from South African region.
These include South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini. Scientists and experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) is currently studying the increasing new variants in the region.
Scientists in South Africa have identified a concerning new coronavirus variant with mutations that one scientist said marked a “big jump in evolution,” prompting several countries to quickly limit travel from the region.
Officials in Australia and in New Zealand said that they were monitoring the new variant closely. In December 2020, South Africa was the first nation to report the appearance of the Beta variant, which has now spread to nearly 70 countries.
Scientists have been concerned that some clinical trials have shown that vaccines offer less protection against the Beta variant. Since then, the more virulent and aggressive Delta variant has spread all over the world and is believed to be fuelling the latest surge in cases.
Germany and Italy also joined Britain in banning most travel from Southern Africa. In a sign of the growing alarm, the European Union on separately proposed prohibiting travel from southern Africa.
The EU’s executive “will propose, in close coordination with member states, to activate the emergency brake to stop air travel from the southern African region due to the variant of concern B.1.1.529,” EU chief Ursula Von der Leyen tweeted Friday. Germany’s new travel restrictions will affect South Africa and “probably neighboring nations”, Spahn said, with only German nationals allowed entry. They must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival even if vaccinated.
“The last thing we need now is an introduced new variant that causes even more problems,” Spahn said, with Germany in the grip of a ferocious fourth wave of the pandemic.
In Rome, the government announced it was banning entry to those who have been in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia or Eswatini in the past fortnight.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza said scientists were studying the new B.1.1.529 variant, “and in the meantime, we will follow the path of maximum caution”.
Britain announced that all flights from South Africa and its same neighbors would be prohibited starting 1200 GMT on Friday. South Africa sharply condemned Britain’s decision.
“Whilst South Africa respects the right of all countries to take the necessary precautionary measures to protect their citizens, the UK’s decision to temporarily ban South Africans from entering the UK seems to have been rushed as even the World Health Organization is yet to advise on the next steps,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Malaysia Imposes Quarantine On Travellers Returning From 7 African Countries Amid New Covid-19 Variant.
Travellers from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, must undergo mandatory quarantine regardless of vaccination status. While South Africa said it respects the right of all countries to take the necessary precautionary measures to protect its citizens, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) said the decisions by foreign countries seem to have been “rushed” and “even the World Health Organization is yet to advise on the next steps,” said the department.
Minister Naledi Pandor said: the immediate concern is the damage that this decision will cause to both the tourism industries and businesses in Southern Africa.