EU set to ban flights from southern Africa due to Covid variant

26 November 2021, 08:14

France EU
France EU. Picture: PA

Scientists say the variant is a concern because of its high number of mutations and rapid spread among young people.

The European Union’s executive has said it wants to stop air travel from southern Africa to counter the spread of a new Covid-19 variant.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that she “proposes, in close coordination with the member states, to activate the emergency brake to stop air travel from the southern African region”.

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

Virus Outbreak Austria
The Christmas tree is illuminated but the booths stay closed at the Christmas market in Innsbruck, Austria (Michael Probst/AP)

A fourth wave of Covid-19 is hitting the 27-nation EU especially badly, with governments scrambling to tighten restrictions in an attempt to contain the spread. The flight ban proposal came in the wake of similar action from Britain on Thursday.

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

The coronavirus evolves as it spreads and many new variants, including those with worrying mutations, often just die out.

Scientists monitor for possible changes that could be more transmissible or deadly, but sorting out whether new variants will have a public health impact can take time.

Currently identified as B.1.1.529, the new variant has also been found in Hong Kong in travellers from South Africa.

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

Virus Outbreak Germany
A sign indicating Covid-19 restrictions in Germany (Roland Weihrauch/dpa via AP)

The WHO said coronavirus infections jumped 11% in Europe in the past week, the only region in the world where Covid-19 cases continues to rise.

The organisation’s Europe director, Dr Hans Kluge, warned that without urgent measures, the continent could see another 700,000 deaths by the spring.

The EU’s emergency brake mechanism has been set up to deal with such emergencies.

Where the epidemiological situation of a third country or region worsens quickly, in particular if a variant of concern or of interest has been detected, member states should adopt an urgent, temporary restriction on all travel into the EU.

This emergency brake should not apply to EU citizens, long-term EU residents and certain categories of essential travellers, who should nevertheless be subject to appropriate testing and quarantine measures, even if fully vaccinated.

Such restrictions should be reviewed at least every two weeks.

By Press Association

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

Former US president Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower, late on Tuesday August 9 2022, in New York

Donald Trump arrives to give evidence in New York investigation

Taiwan’s military conducts artillery live-fire drills at Fangshan township in Pingtung, southern Taiwan, Tuesday, August 9, 2022

China appears to wind down threatening war games near Taiwan

People line up to enter an H&M shop and buy items on sale in the Aviapark shopping centre in Moscow, Russia, on Tuesday August 9 2022

Russians buy last goods from H&M and Ikea as stores wind down

Tom Daley blames 'legacy of colonialism' for homophobia in the Commonwealth

Tom Daley blames British Empire's legacy of colonialism' for homophobic laws in Commonwealth nations

France Whale in Seine

Beluga whale stranded in French river dies, authorities say

Rising smoke can be seen from the beach at Saky after explosions were heard from the direction of a Russian military airbase near Novofedorivka, Crimea

Ukraine says nine Russian warplanes were destroyed in Crimea blasts

French police shoot dead knifeman in Charles de Gaulle airport

Knifeman shot dead by police in packed terminal at Paris's biggest airport

Russia Ukraine

Large explosions rock Russian air base in Crimea

Chinese officials shared images from social media site Weibo of the Chinese military drills.

China's new invasion threat as it warns it is 'ready to use all necessary measures' to retake Taiwan

This photo released Tuesday, August 9, 2022, by the Albuquerque Police Department shows Muhammad Syed, 51, who was taken into custody on Monday in connection with the killings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque, New Mexico, over the last nine months

‘Motive unclear’ as man charged with killing fellow Muslims in Albuquerque

Yaser Said walks into the courtroom for his trial, Tuesday, August 9, 2022, in the Frank Crowley Criminal Courts Building in Dallas

‘Abusive’ father who evaded police for 12 years convicted of killing daughters

Albuquerque Muslim Killings

Man charged with killing two Muslim men in US city

Emmett Till

Grand jury declines to indict woman whose accusation set off lynching in 1955

Albuquerque Muslim Killings

‘Primary suspect’ held over killings of Muslim men in New Mexico

Israel Palestinians

Militants killed by Israeli troops in West Bank as violence resumes

Kenya Elections

Kenya’s close presidential election draws fewer voters