The European Union wants to stop flights from South Africa because of the alternative
Brussels European Union countries move to halt air travel from South Africa on Friday, in an effort to counter the spread of a new type of COVID-19 as the 27-nation bloc battles a massive rise in cases.
“The last thing we need is to introduce a new species that will cause more problems,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn said.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement that she “proposes, in close coordination with member states, the activation of the emergency brake to halt air travel from the South African region.”
Scientists say the novel coronavirus variant discovered in South Africa is a concern due to the high number of mutations and its rapid spread among young people in Gauteng, the country’s most populous province.
Germany said von der Leyen’s proposal could be activated as soon as Friday night. Spahn said airlines returning from South Africa will only be able to fly German nationals home, and travelers will need to self-quarantine for 14 days whether or not they have been vaccinated.
Germany has seen new records for daily cases in recent days and crossed the 100,000 mark of COVID-19 deaths on Thursday.
The Italian Ministry of Health has also announced measures to ban entry to Italy by anyone who has been in seven South African countries – South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini – in the past 14 days due to the new variant.
The Netherlands plans to take similar measures.
These countries are considered high-risk areas. “It means quarantine and double testing for travelers from these countries,” Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jong said.
In Israel, the Ministry of Health said it had detected the first case of the new coronavirus in the country for a traveler who had returned from Malawi. The traveler and two suspected cases have been placed in isolation. She said all three have been vaccinated but she is currently studying their exact vaccination status.
The fourth spike in the coronavirus in the 27-nation European Union has hit the 27-nation bloc particularly badly, as governments scramble to tighten restrictions in an effort to contain the spread. The no-fly proposal followed similar action from Britain on Thursday.
The United Kingdom announced that it will ban flights from South Africa and five other countries in South Africa from noon on Friday, and that anyone who has recently arrived from those countries will be required to take a coronavirus test.
Britain’s health minister, Sajid Javid, said there were concerns that the new variant “may be more transmissible” than the prevailing Delta strain, and that “the vaccines we currently have may be less effective” against it.
Corona virus evolves as it spreads and many new variants, including those with worrying mutations, often die. Scientists are watching for potential changes that could be more transmissible or lethal, but determining whether new variables will have an impact on public health may take time.
He said the new variant, currently identified as B.1.1.529, was also found in Botswana and Hong Kong in South African travelers.
The World Health Organization’s technical working group will meet on Friday to evaluate the new alternative and may decide whether to name it from the Greek alphabet.
The World Health Organization says coronavirus infections jumped 11% in Europe last week, the only region in the world where the coronavirus continues to rise. WHO Europe Director Dr Hans Kluge has warned that without urgent measures, the continent could see another 700,000 deaths by spring.
The European Union’s Emergency Braking Mechanism has been established to deal with such emergencies.
When the epidemiological situation of a third country or region rapidly deteriorates, particularly if some kind of concern or concern is detected, Member States should adopt urgent and temporary restrictions on all travel to the European Union. These emergency brakes should not be applied to EU citizens, long-term residents of the EU and certain categories of essential travellers, who should nevertheless be subject to appropriate testing and quarantine measures, even if fully vaccinated.
These restrictions should be reviewed at least every two weeks.
Lorne Cook contributed in Brussels, Colin Barry in Milan, Mike Corder in The Hague and Frank Jordan in Berlin
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