The United Kingdom has banned flights from six southern African countries with effect from this Friday until Sunday over concerns about a new COVID-19 variant (B.1.1.529) detected in Botswana and South Africa.
From midday today, direct flights from South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia are banned from Britain. Health secretary Sajid Javid said:
From midday Friday (Nov 26), South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia will be added to the UK’s travel red list… Direct flights from the six countries will be banned from midday Friday until hotel quarantine is up and running from 4 am Sunday (Nov 28).
Starting from Friday, travellers to the UK, who are non-UK and Irish citizens, who have visited the six African nations within the past 10 days, will be refused entry to the UK, while the UK and Irish citizens will be required to self-isolate for 10 days.
Earlier this week, scientists from the UK had warned of the appearance of a COVID-19 strain, which contains 32 mutations, in Botswana.
The South African National Institute of Infectious Diseases later also confirmed that the new strain had been found in South Africa, with 22 cases to date.
UK scientists believe the new variant is highly transmissible and can reduce the effectiveness of current vaccines to as little as 30 per cent.
Earlier on Thursday, South Africa’s Health Minister Joe Phaahla announced the country has experienced a significant rise in new infections, particularly in Gauteng Province.
South African scientists are working to determine what percentage of the new cases have been caused by the new variant.