A new variant of Coronavirus has been discovered in South Africa, which it is feared can out-wit the current vaccines and potentially is more virulent than previous strains.
As a result of the development, governments around the world have moved swiftly to ban travel to South Africa, and five other neighbouring countries, in a bid to keep the new variant out.
That, however, might be a tad too late, with this morning, reports that the new variant may already be present in Israel, a country lauded for its rapid vaccine rollout.
UK Government Restrictions
• From midday Friday 26 November, South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia will be added to the UK’s travel red list
• Passengers arriving from 4am Sunday in England will be required to book and pay for a government-approved hotel quarantine facility for 10 days
• British nationals arriving from these six countries between midday Friday and 4am Sunday, and who have been in these countries within the last 10 days, must quarantine at home for 10 days and take NHS PCR tests on Day 2 and Day 8, even if they already have a lateral flow test booking
• Direct flights from the six countries will be banned from midday Friday until hotel quarantine is up and running from 4am Sunday 28 November
• Precautionary move follows designation of a new Variant under Investigation by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA)
The restrictions have been brought in as the variant B.1.1.529 is declared a “Variant under Investigation” by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
According to the UKHSA, the new variant “…includes a large number of spike protein mutations as well as mutations in other parts of the viral genome.
“These are potentially biologically significant mutations which may change the behaviour of the virus with regards to vaccines, treatments and transmissibility.”
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “As part of our close surveillance of variants across the world, we have become aware of the spread of a new potentially concerning variant, which UKHSA has designated a Variant under Investigation.
“We are taking precautionary action to protect public health and the progress of our vaccine rollout at a critical moment as we enter winter, and we are monitoring the situation closely.
“I want to pay tribute to our world-leading scientists who are working constantly to keep our country safe, and I urge everyone to keep doing their bit by the getting the jab and following public health guidance.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps added: “We’ve always maintained public safety is our number one priority, which is why we’ve kept in place measures which allow us to protect the UK from new variants.
“We’re taking this early precautionary action now to protect the progress made across the country, and will continue to keep a close eye on the situation as we continue into the winter.”