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UK suspends flights to six countries as new coronavirus strain emerges in Africa




UK Health Minister Sajid Javid announced on Thursday the temporary suspension of flights from six countries after reports of a new COVID-19 strain with more than 30 mutations spreading in South Africa.

It comes as variant B.1.1.529 has been declared variant under investigation (VuI) by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

“Strains include a large number of spike protein mutations and mutations in other parts of the viral genome. These are potentially biologically important mutations that could alter the virus’ behavior in relation to vaccines, treatment and infectivity. It is necessary,” the UK Health Security Agency said in a statement.

Javid said on Twitter that the UKHSA “is investigating a new strain and needs more data, but is taking precautions now”. “From tomorrow at noon, six African countries will be added to the red list, flights will be temporarily banned, and UK travelers will have to undergo quarantine,” he said.

“We are taking precautions to protect public health and the progress of the vaccine launch at a critical time as we enter winter, and we are monitoring the situation closely.”

The announcement says that a new strain of COVID-19 of “serious concern” has been found in South Africa, according to media reports.

The Financial Times reported, citing sources, that the World Health Organization (WHO) had convened an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss a potentially rapidly spreading strain of coronavirus found in South Africa and Botswana.

Earlier, British media reported that British scientists had warned of the emergence of a strain of coronavirus containing 32 mutations in Botswana.

Many mutations are highly contagious and vaccine-resistant, and this strain has more changes in the spike protein than all other COVID-19 strains, Russian news agency reported. The South African National Institute of Infectious Diseases also later confirmed the discovery of a new strain in South Africa.

(Only the headlines and figures in this report may have been edited by Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is automatically generated from syndicated feeds.)

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