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Belgium confirms 1 case of the new Covid-19 variant first detected in South Africa

Passengers walk with their luggage at Frankfurt airport. After the discovery of a new virus variant, the German government wants to restrict air travel with South Africa on 26th November 2021
Passengers walk with their luggage at Frankfurt airport. After the discovery of a new virus variant, the German government wants to restrict air travel with South Africa on 26th November 2021 (Boris Roessler/Getty Images)

The discovery of a new Covid-19 variant first detected in South Africa prompted multiple countries to impose travel restrictions on at least six African nations.

Currently known as B.1.1.529, the newly identified variant appears to be spreading rapidly in parts of South Africa and scientists are concerned that its unusually high number of mutations could make it more transmissible and result in immune evasion.

These are the countries that have announced restrictions so far:

  • Italy
  • Austria
  • France
  • Japan
  • The United Kingdom
  • Singapore
  • The Netherlands
  • Malta
  • Malaysia
  • Morocco
  • Philippines

While only dozens of cases of the new strain have been identified so far, they have been detected in South Africa, Botswana and in a traveler to Hong Kong from South Africa.

The cascade of closures began late Thursday as the UK announced it would be temporarily suspending flights from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini.

Japan has tightened border controls for travelers from the same six countries, bringing in a 10-day quarantine beginning 12 a.m. on Nov. 27.

Fellow EU nations Austria, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Malta have all announced imminent entry bans to all travelers who’ve entered South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini in the past two weeks.

Singapore has opted to ban all non-residents from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe from entering, while nationals and permanent residents returning from any of these countries will be required to serve a 10-day stay home notice (SHN). Malaysia has also taken similar steps.

Meanwhile, Germany plans to declare South Africa a “virus variant area” from Friday night, which will mean that airlines may only enter from the country to repatriate German citizens.

The Philippines has suspended inbound flights effective immediately from South Africa and six other countries due to concerns over the new variant, according to the presidential office. Travelers, including Filipino nationals, coming from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Mozambique have been banned until Dec. 15.

David McKenzie reports:


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