New Corona Variant: Europe Wants Immediate Emergency Stop on Flights from South Africa

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The European Commission, “in close consultation with Member States”, will propose an immediate halt to air traffic with southern Africa due to a corona mutation detected there (B.1.1.529); Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted Friday.

 

Several member states, including Germany and Italy, have already decided not to allow travellers from South Africa.

The emergency stop that the European Commission wants can be used if the epidemiological situation in a country or region outside the European Union deteriorates rapidly, especially if it has to do with a new corona mutation. The measure does not normally apply to EU citizens or people who have lived in the EU for a long time.

Several countries have already decided to ban air traffic from South Africa. For example, Germany will not allow travellers from the country, Health Minister Jens Spahn reported. The travel ban will come into effect on Friday evening. “Probably” the measure will also apply to South Africa’s neighbouring countries. Only German citizens are allowed to fly back, but they must then be quarantined for 14 days, even if they have been vaccinated. “The last thing we need now is a new variant that causes even more problems,” says Spahn.

In concrete terms, Germany declares countries in southern Africa to be virus variant areas, which means that the strictest possible measures apply, which is equivalent to an entry ban. Furthermore, there are no countries in the world that qualify as variant areas in Germany.

The decision has already been taken in Italy. Anyone who has stayed in South Africa in the past 14 days is no longer allowed to enter the Boot, said public health minister Roberto Speranza. He wants to show the greatest caution with regard to the new variant. The measure also applies to neighbouring countries Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini, formerly Swaziland.

Israel and the United Kingdom, among others, have already announced an entry ban for southern Africa. London communicated the decision Thursday evening. As a result, travellers from seven countries in southern Africa are no longer welcome in Singapore from Sunday.

According to virologist Marc Van Ranst, the travel ban is a good idea to slow down the advance of the variant. “This travel ban will not completely stop the advance of the B.1.1.529 variant, but hopefully slow it down a bit. The sober fact is that this variant is probably already present in Europe to a very limited extent,” he writes on Twitter.

No decision has yet been made in our country. But, according to corona commissioner Pedro Facon, a thorough evaluation will be made today, and decisions will be made if necessary, he writes on Twitter.

N-VA vice-chairman Lorin Parys wants to go faster. “There is ample evidence that the South African variant may be problematic in terms of infectiousness and even immunity evasion. In the middle of the fourth wave, we have to slow this down as much as possible. An entry ban to Belgium and the European Union is urgently needed,” he writes.

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