SA questions UK flight ban amid global alarm over Covid variant

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Passengers wear face masks as a preventive measure while they talk to a security guard at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. (Guillem SARTORIO / AFP)
Passengers wear face masks as a preventive measure while they talk to a security guard at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. (Guillem SARTORIO / AFP)

The story: Local authorities on Friday said a British ban on flights from six southern African countries over a new Covid-19 variant seemed rushed, as EU authorities prepared similar moves and the World Health Organisation convened an emergency meeting.

The detials: Scientists have so far only detected the B.1.1.529 variant in relatively small numbers, mainly in South Africa but also in Botswana and Hong Kong, but say they are concerned by its high number of mutations which could possibly make it vaccine-resistant and more transmissible.

What we know: Britain said the variant was the most significant one found yet after banning flights from South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, and Namibia from midday on Friday. European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the EU also aimed to halt air travel from the region, describing the variant in a tweet as "of concern".


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