Brussels: In a bid to contain the spread of new COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529, the European Union (EU) is planning to impose ban on air travel from southern Africa. “The last thing we need is to bring in a new variant that will cause even more problems,” said German Health Minister Jens Spahn. For the unversed, a new coronavirus variant has been detected in South Africa that scientists claim is a ‘concern’ because of its high number of mutations and rapid spread among young people in Gauteng, the country’s most populous province.Also Read - 6 Healthcare Essentials for People With Diabetes During the Omicron Wave

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement that she “proposes, in close coordination with the member states, to activate the emergency brake to stop air travel from the southern African region.” A fourth spike of the coronavirus is hitting the 27-nation EU especially badly, with governments scrambling to tighten restrictions in an attempt to contain the spread. Also Read - NeoCov: Wuhan Scientists Warn of New Coronavirus Strain With High Death, Infection Rate

UK, Israel Impose New Travel Restrictions 

Earlier in the day, authorities in the United Kingdom announced that they have decided to impose a travel ban from six Southern African countries. “The early indication we have of this variant is it may be more transmissible than the Delta variant and the vaccines that we currently have may be less effective against it,” Health Secretary Sajid Javid said in a statement. At the moment, around 500 and 700 people are travelling to the UK from South Africa each day, but it is expected this figure could increase as the festive period begins, the Daily Mail report added. Also Read - Chandigarh Schools, Colleges to Reopen from This Date, Vaccination Must | Details Here

A day before, Israel had also announced a ban on entry of travelers from seven African countries, after a new Covid-19 variant was detected in South Africa. Following the reports of heavily mutated variant, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horwitz yesterday decided to list South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, and Eswatini as ‘red countries’.

WHO to Meet to Assess New Variant

The World Health Organization’s technical working group is to meet Friday to assess the new variant and may decide whether to give it a name from the Greek alphabet.

The World Health Organization says coronavirus infections jumped 11% in Europe in the past week, the only region in the world where COVID-19 continues to rise. The WHO’s Europe director, Dr. Hans Kluge, warned that without urgent measures, the continent could see another 700,000 deaths by the spring.

All You Need to Know About New Variant of Corona B.1.1.529

Identified as B.1.1.529, the new variant has also been found in Botswana and Hong Kong in travelers from South Africa. Expected to be given the name “Nu”, the strain carries 32 mutations, many of which suggest it is highly transmissible and vaccine-resistant and has more alterations to its spike protein than any other variant.

Dr Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College, said the combination of mutations found in the Botswana variant is ‘horrific’. He added that B.1.1.529, the scientific name of Botswana variant, could be be ‘worse than nearly anything else about.”