South Africa said the UK’s decision to put the country on its red list over concerns about the spread of a supervised version of Covid was “hasty”.
A South African government minister has described the UK’s decision to suspend flights from South Africa as “hasty” as he is concerned about a new “super version” of the coronavirus registered in the country.
The Minister for International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor, responded to the UK’s decision to redlist SA, saying she was concerned about the damage it would do to the tourism industry and businesses.
Great Britain decided to put South Africa and five other countries, namely Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia, on its red list in order to prevent the entry of a new Covid “super variant”.
As of Friday noon, all travelers from these countries will have to self-isolate for 10 days upon arrival, while on Sunday they will be quarantined in a hotel at 4 a.m. The flights will be suspended until the quarantine system is operational.
The World Health Organization (WHO) will classify the new variant as “worrying” because it fears that it could avoid vaccines.
The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said the European Union is also proposing to stop air traffic from the region as Europe fights its own wave of Covid.
“The last thing we need is a new variant that will cause even more problems,” said Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn.
However, the South African Minister for International Relations said the UK’s decision appeared to have been taken in a hurry.
“While SA respects the right of all countries to take the necessary precautionary measures to protect their citizens, the UK’s decision to temporarily ban South Africans from entering the UK appears to have been rash, as even the World Health Organization (WHO) does not yet have the advise next steps ”, said Naledi Pandor according to the local news agency TimeLIVE.
British experts assume that the variant, which is spreading rapidly in South Africa, can reduce the effectiveness of vaccines by up to 30 percent.
No cases have been identified in the UK yet, but hundreds of people who recently entered from South Africa are being contacted by public health teams and asked to run PCR tests.
There have been nearly 100 confirmed cases in South Africa, but the country’s health minister believes there are many more due to an increase in cases in Gauteng Province. A handful of cases have been reported in Botswana and Hong Kong.
Professor Tulio de Oliveira, director of South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (Krisp), said he was impressed with the number of mutations the variant had.
“This variant … surprised us … [it] has made a big evolutionary leap, ”he said, reports News24. “Many of the mutations are important for immune evasion and transmissibility.
“We can see that the variant may spread very quickly … We unfortunately expect that pressure will be seen in the health system in the next few days and weeks.”
Professor de Oliveira has also begged directly to the world’s billionaires including Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, saying that more money is needed to fight Covid in Africa.
The WHO working group on virus evolution is due to meet on Friday to discuss whether the new variant should be officially designated as “worrying”, a designation that has only been given to four variants so far.
WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove said in a video posted on Twitter that it could take a few weeks to understand the effects of the variant’s mutations.