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Live: EU aims to halt flights from southern Africa over new Covid-19 variant

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The EU aims to halt air travel from the southern African region amid rising concern about a new Covid-19 variant detected in South Africa, EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday. Follow FRANCE 24’s live updates for all the latest developments. 

10:15 Paris time

EU plans ’emergency brake to stop air travel’ from southern Africa

In a statement posted on Twitter Friday, EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said she would “propose, in close coordination with Member States, to activate the emergency brake to stop air travel from the southern African region”.

A new coronavirus variant has been detected in South Africa that scientists say is a concern because of its high number of mutations and rapid spread among young people in Gauteng, the country’s most populous province.

The proposal comes as the 27-nation bloc is battling a massive spike in cases.

The latest spike is hitting the EU especially badly, with governments scrambling to tighten restrictions in an attempt to contain spread. The flight ban proposal came in the wake of similar action from Britain on Thursday.

The EU proposal came a day after scientists in South Africa said they had detected the new B.1.1.529 strain with at least 10 mutations, compared with two for the Delta variant.

10:09 (Paris time)

Israel finds case of new strain

Israel has identified a case of a Covid-19 variant with a large number of mutations first detected in South Africa, the health ministry said Friday.

“The variant discovered in southern African states has been identified in Israel,” the ministry said, adding it was recorded “in a person who returned from Malawi”.

Two more cases were detected in “people returning from abroad”, it said, adding that they had been placed in quarantine.

The three people were all vaccinated, the health ministry said, without specifying the number of doses or the type of vaccine.

9:38 Paris time

WHO meeting on Friday to designate new variant

The World Health Organization is convening an experts’ meeting from Geneva  on Friday to assess the new variant, said WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier.

“WHO is convening a meeting … to better understand the timeline for studies that are under way and to determine if this variant should be designated as a variant of interest or variant of concern,” he said.

Nearly 100 sequences of the variant have been reported, and early analysis shows it has “a large number of mutations” requiring further study, Lindmeier said.

The WHO had no comment so far on travel restrictions imposed by some authorities on southern African countries linked to the variant, he added.


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