UK adds six African countries to red list due to fears over new variant
A new variant of Covid-19 has emerged which descends from the B.1.1 lineage and is believed to have an “incredibly high” number of mutations, experts say.
South Africa’s health minister announced the discovery of this new variant on Thursday, that appears to be spreading rapidly in parts of the country. The first cases found were three in Botswana, followed by another six cases in South Africa, and one in Hong Kong involving a traveller returning from South Africa.
With fears that it is highly transmissible and effective at evading the body’s immune response, several countries are considering travel bans. The UK has added six African countries to its red list — South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe.
The health secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “As part of our close surveillance of variants across the world, we have become aware of the spread of a new potentially concerning variant.
“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.”
British travel ban seems ‘rushed’, says South Africa
South Africa’s foreign ministry has responded to Britain’s move of adding it to its travel “red list” along with five other countries after a new Covid variant was reported.
Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s foreign minister said in a statement that they will engage with British authorities and ask them to reconsider the decision.
“Our immediate concern is the damage that this decision will cause to both the tourism industries and businesses of both countries,” Ms Pandor said.
The statement added that the decision “seems to have been rushed” since the World Health Organisation is yet to advise on the next steps.
The new variant, called B.1.1.529, is stoking fear of new infections as scientists say it could be highly transmissible and effective at evading the body’s immune response due to its “very unusual constellation” of mutations, 32 of which are located in the virus’s spike protein.
After the UK’s announcement, several countries, including Australia and Japan have said they are considering stricter restrictions for travellers from South Africa.
Apart from South Africa, the countries added to the UK’s list are Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe.
Stuti Mishra26 November 2021 06:49
Japan to tighten border controls after discovery of new variant
The Japanese government has decided to tighten border controls for travellers from six African countries affected by the new Covid variant, according to the Jiji news service.
This includes South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe.
The move comes after several countries have said they are considering stronger rules or even closing down of borders for travellers of these countries after the new variant was reported.
Scientists have said the new variant – called B.1.1.529 – could be highly transmissible and possibly manage to evade the body’s immune response due to its “very unusual constellation” of mutations.
Earlier on Thursday, Britain added the six countries to its Covid travel “red list”.
Stuti Mishra26 November 2021 06:15
Scientists ask for parachuting in extra vaccine supplies
The variant – called B.1.1.529 – is feared to be highly transmissible and effective at evading the body’s immune response due to its “very unusual constellation” of mutations, 32 of which are located in the virus’s spike protein.
Many virologists have started to sound the alarm over the variant, warning that pre-emptive action needs to be taken as soon as possible, while others have insisted more data and time is needed to determine the threat posed by B.1.1.529.
In response, experts have said early action needs to be taken in case the variant does prove to be as problematic as feared.
Stuti Mishra26 November 2021 05:55
New Zealand says its prepared for new variant
New Zeland’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern says the county is well prepared to deal with the new variant, a week after announcing the opening of its borders.
Ms Ardern was asked whether the discovery of B.1.1.529 variant, which is feared to be more virulent and could evade the protection of vaccines, would disrupt the opening time table of the country in an interview with Reuters news agency,
She said the country has “a number of inbuilt measures to act as a layer of protection.”
“We are transitioning into a phase now where we see the vaccine do some heavy lifting, but we are maintaining a level of public health restriction,” Ms Ardern said.
“All of our planning around Covid, we have built into it the possibility of variants in the future,” she said. “That is why we are maintaining levels of public health protections. It’s why we’ve maintained requirements at our border.”
“With all our changes, we constantly monitor what is happening with the pandemic as we go and we’ll continue to do that,” she further said. “It gives us the ability to see the impact of things like waning immunity, to see what happens with public health restrictions.”
Stuti Mishra26 November 2021 05:39
What scientists are saying about the new variant?
Scientsists say the new variant can be a lot more virulent due to its higher mutations and could possibly evade vaccine protection.
Dr Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, said the variant could be “of real concern” as its 32 mutations in its spike protein could enable it to more easily evade a person’s immune system and spread to more people.
Prof Francois Balloux, Professor of Computational Systems Biology and Director, UCL Genetics Institute, said the variant’s mutations are in “an unusual constellation” that “accummulated apparently in a single burst”.
He said that this indicates it could have evolved during a “chronic infection of an immunocompromised person, possibly in an untreated HIV/AIDS patient”.
Stuti Mishra26 November 2021 05:25
Australia considers closing borders to South Africa
Australia is considering closing its borders to travellers from South Africa if heightened risks from the new variant are found.
The government said it was investigating the newly identified variant of Covid-19 and would respond swiftly if the World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies it as a major new variant.
“As we have always been, we are flexible. And if the medical advice is that we need to change that, we won’t hesitate,” Australia Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters in Sydney. “That is what we have done as a country, whether it has been closing borders, whether it has been ensuring there is quarantine.”
South African scientists are concerned the new variant has a “very unusual constellation” of mutations and could evade the body’s immune response.
On Thursday, Britain added six African countries — South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Eswatini — to its Covid travel “red list”.
Stuti Mishra26 November 2021 04:54
What we know so far about B.1.1529 variant?
A worrying new variant is driving a spike in infections in South Africa and triggering concerns of increased travel restrictions.
The variant, which descends from the B.1.1 lineage, has an “incredibly high” number of mutations, experts say, with fears that it is highly transmissible and effective at evading the body’s immune response.
B.1.1529 has 32 mutations located in its spike protein. These include E484A, K417N and N440K, which are associated with helping the virus to escape detection from antibodies.
Another mutation, N501Y, which is found in the spike protein, appears to increase the ability of the virus to gain entry to our cells, making it more transmissible.
Here’s everything we know about the B.1.1529 variant:
Stuti Mishra26 November 2021 04:31
Welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of everything related to the discovery of a new Covid variant.
Stuti Mishra26 November 2021 04:21