EU states agree to suspend air travel from southern African nations affected by new variant

EU states agree to suspend air travel from southern African nations affected by new variant

European Union (EU) member states have agreed to temporarily suspend travel from southern Africa after the detection of the new Covid variant.

A committee of health experts from the bloc’s 27 states agreed upon the need to activate the “emergency break” and impose temporary restriction on all travel into the EU from southern Africa. 

The news was confirmed on Twitter by the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. 

#COVID19 | ❗️Integrated Political Crisis Response mechanism (#IPCR) met & agreed on the need to activate the #emergency break & impose temporary restriction on all travel into EU from southern #Africa.#EU2021SI called upon Members to test & quarantine all incoming passengers.❗️

— EU2021SI (@EU2021SI) November 26, 2021

Earlier, the European Commission recommended that EU countries suspend  travel from southern Africa in response to the new variant.

Speaking this afternoon, EC President Ursula von der Leyen said the move would help “limit the spread” of the variant, recommending all air travel to affected countries be suspended until more is known about the new strain.

We are taking the news about the new highly mutated Covid variant very seriously.

“The European Commission has today proposed to member states to activate the emergency brake on travel from countries in southern Africa and other countries affected to limit the spread of the new variant.

“All air travel to these countries should be suspended until we have a clear understanding about the dangers posed by this new variant.”

Anyone returning from the region should “respect strict quarantine rules”, she said.

Ms von der Leyen said the vaccine contracts the EU has with pharma companies state that their Covid jabs must be adapted as new variants emerge.

The EC President also urged Europeans to “take every opportunity to protect themselves” through vaccinations and other public health measures. 

“We have gained experience with other measures like masks, hand hygiene, and social distancing, but also contact-tracing travel bans and border measures.

“This helps to slow down the spread of the virus, which is important because it buys us valuable time for more vaccinations and booster shots,” she added.

The news about the new COVID variant is very concerning.

I have talked to scientists and vaccine manufacturers today. They share the concern.

Please get vaccinated as soon as possible, if not done yet.

And follow the known rules to protect yourself. https://t.co/eSKPzr8J5Q

— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) November 26, 2021

First EU case of new variant

Belgium has detected the first case of the new Covid-19 variant which was first found in South Africa, a virologist said on Friday.

Marc Van Ranst, whose laboratory works closely with Belgium’s public health body Sciensano, said on Twitter that the variant was found in a traveller returning to Belgium from Egypt on November 11. 

The patient developed the first symptoms on November 22, the virologist said.

It is reported that the patient has been identified as an unvaccinated, young adult woman who developed mild flu-like symptoms.

She did not report any links with South Africa or other countries in southern Africa and it is understood none of her family members has developed symptoms. 

The patient was said to have a high viral load at the time of diagnosis by researchers at the universities, KU Leuven and UZ Leuven.

The new measures come just a week after a previous package of coronavirus restrictions, including enforcing wider use of masks and more working from home.

The Belgian government brought in new restrictions on Friday including early closing of bars and full closure of nightclubs for three weeks to reduce social contact and curb a rapidly spreading fourth wave of Covid infections.

“We are confronted with a situation now that is worse than the most pessimistic view of the experts from only two weeks ago,” the Belgian premier Alexander De Croo told a news conference. He said strain on the health service was mounting.

The new measures come just a week after a previous package of coronavirus restrictions, including enforcing wider use of masks and more working from home.

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