Johannesburg: South Africa's Foreign Ministry claims that the Britain's call of banning flights from South Africa, because a new variant of COVID-19 has been detected at South Africa "seems to have been rushed", as even the World Health Organization is yet to advise on the next steps.
The Union Health Ministry has issued an alert for the B.1.1.529 variant of the novel coronavirus. Detected recently by scientists in South Africa, the variant is characterised by a "very unusual constellation" of mutations.
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, in a letter to all states and UTs, wrote, "This variant is reported to have a significantly high number of mutations, and thus, has serious public health implications for the country, in view of recently relaxed visa restrictions and opening up of international travel."
Confirmed cases of the new variant have been reported from Botswana, South Africa and Hong Kong.
Britain on Thursday temporarily banned flights from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Eswatini from Friday after its detection was announced.
"Our immediate concern is the damage that this decision will cause to both the tourism industries and businesses of both countries," South Africa's Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said in a statement.
South Africa will engage with British authorities to try to get them to reconsider their decision, the statement added.
South Africa has requested an urgent sitting of a World Health Organization working group on virus evolution on Friday to discuss the new variant.
Italy Bans Visitors from Southern African Countries Over New Variant
Italy said that it it is banning entry to those who have been in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia or Swaziland in the past fortnight due to fears over a new coronavirus variant.
Germany to Declare South Africa Virus Variant Area: Ministry Source
Germany will declare South Africa a virus variant area on Friday after the detection of a new COVID-19 variant there, a health ministry source said. The decision, which will come into effect from Friday night, will mean airlines will be allowed to fly only Germans to Germany from South Africa, according to the source. Returning Germans, even those who are vaccinated, will then have to spend 14 days in quarantine.
“This newly discovered variant worries us. That is why we are acting pro-actively and early here,” Health Minister Jens Spahn said. “The last thing we need now is a new variant being introduced that causes even more problems.”