EU Warns Of South Africa COVID Variant; Banning Flights
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) – The European Union’s executive wants that EU countries introduce an “emergency brake” on travel from southern Africa due to a new coronavirus variant.
The reportedly more infectious variant was first detected there, and European nations such as the Netherlands already closed airports Friday for flights from countries in southern Africa.
It already led to chaos at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, where some 600 people on board two plans from South Africa were uncertain about their next moves.
They were given coronavirus “PCR” tests and must stay at the airport until their results, officials said. It was unclear if the passengers had to go into quarantine, Dutch media reported.
Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said the new variant has not yet been identified in the Netherlands. “But we have seen how fast other variants take hold, so we have to do the maximum to keep it out,” he told reporters.
The new variant, known as B.1.1.529, already holds in South Africa, and cases have reportedly been found in Botswana and, via a traveler, in Hong Kong.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Brussels would propose “activating the emergency brake to stop air travel from the southern African region.” She said the Commission was in close consultation with all the EU’s 27 member states.
She added said the move would help “limit the spread” of the variant, recommending all air travel to affected countries be suspended. Returning travelers from the region should “respect strict quarantine rules,” Von der Leyen added.
The World Health Organization (WHO) was meeting to check if the B.1.1.529 variant warrants a designation as one of “interest” or of “concern.” The variant was identified on Tuesday and stands out because it carries an “extremely high number” of mutations, according to policy advisers.
“The concern is that when you have so many mutations, it can have an impact on how the virus behaves,” WHO official Maria van Kerkhove said in published remarks.
News of the new variant comes as global financial markets were reportedly plunging on news of growing COVID-19 numbers.
The WHO already warned Europe to take stricter measures to prevent half a million additional coronavirus deaths by the Spring. This week Germany, Europe’s largest economy, announced it had recorded 100,000 coronavirus-related deaths.
The developments have led to increasing pressure on unvaccinated people across the EU, ranging from forced lockdowns to the banning from venues.
Critics of stricter policies caution that most people are elderly with underlying health conditions, including many who may have died of severe other flu symptoms.
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