The newly identified coronavirus variant that has spread in South Africa is the most concerning that British health officials have seen as it has double the number of mutations of the Delta variant including some associated with evading the immune response.
A passenger traveling from South Africa brought this virus to Hong Kong and is currently isolated at the airport. Another traveler in Botswana had the new variant.
The UK Health Security Agency said that the variant – called B.1.1.529 has a spike protein that was dramatically different from the one in the original coronavirus that COVID-19 vaccines are based on.
It has mutations that are likely to evade the immune response generated both by prior infection and vaccination, and also mutations associated with increased infectivity.
In response, South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe will move onto the red list at 12.00 midday Friday 26 November.
There will be a ban on all direct commercial and private flights from these countries from 12.00 midday Friday 26 November to 4 am Sunday 28 November.
If you have been in any of these counties and arrive in England between 12.00 midday on Friday 26 November and 4 am Sunday 28 November, you:
- must follow special guidance on how to complete the passenger locator form
- must quarantine at home or at alternative appropriate accommodation
- can get free PCR tests to take during quarantine
Cuthbert Ncube, Chairman of the African Tourism Board said: The African Tourism Board is following this news with high concern. We’re ready to face this challenge and stand by our members and tourism as we did throughout this crisis.”
Nigel Vere Nicoll, President of ATTA commented:
“The announcement by the UK Health Secretary, Sajid Javid this evening that with the discovery of a new Covid variant, six southern African countries would be added to the UK red list from midday on Friday GMT, with flights temporarily banned, has come as a complete hammer blow to all of our members. While the safety of all concerned must be considered, it is heart-breaking that this has happened to an industry that is grappling to get back on its feet after the past 20 months.
We will work closely with the governments of South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, and Eswatini to understand the full impact of this announcement and how we can support our members and their customers.”