Countries in Asia and Europe are rushing to tighten border controls due to the new COVID-19 variant detected in South Africa (B.1.1.529). The new discovery comes as Europe, North America is entering winter holiday season, a lucrative period for airlines all over the world.
On November 26, 2021, the United Kingdom government has taken precautionary measures and added six African countries, including Botswana, South Africa Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia to the red list.
“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,” UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid in the government’s statement.
Several hours later, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen announced that EU is also proposing to halt air travel from the region.
The @EU_Commission will propose, in close coordination with Member States, to activate the emergency brake to stop air travel from the southern African region due to the variant of concern B.1.1.529.— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) November 26, 2021
Germany declared South Africa as a new virus variant area with new restrictions coming into force today. Meanwhile, Spain has announced that it will suspend flights to South Africa and Botswana on November 30, 2021, state broadcaster TVE reported on November 26, 2021. In France officials have temporarily suspended flights to the region for 48 hours.
Deutschland wird u.a. #Südafrika zum Virusvariantengebiet erklären. Mit Inrafttreten heute Nacht dürfen Fluggesellschaften nur noch Deutsche nach befördern, außerdem gelten 14 Tage Quarantäne für alle, auch Geimpfte. (1/2)— Jens Spahn (@jensspahn) November 26, 2021
Singapore and Malaysia are also restricting arrivals from the region. Meanwhile, Japan instead of suspending flights are tightening border controls for arrivals from the region.
India has also issued an alert due to the new COVID-19 variant detected in southern Africa.
“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,” said Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, Aljazeera reported.