Johannesburg, Berlin Germany will declare South Africa a virus variant area because of the newly emerging coronavirus variant B.1.1.529. The regulation will come into force on Saturday night, airlines will then only be allowed to transport German citizens to Germany, said Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) on Friday morning.
The South African Institute for Infectious Diseases NICD announced on Thursday that the first 22 cases of the new variant B.1.1.529 had been detected in South Africa. More cases are to be expected in the course of the ongoing genome analyzes. “Although the data situation is still limited, our experts are working overtime with all monitoring systems in order to understand the new variant and the possible implications associated with it.”
Health Secretary Joe Phaahla said the new variant confirms the “fact that this invisible enemy is very unpredictable”. He called on the South Africans to wear masks, to keep their distance and, in particular, to get vaccinated. “We also have the extra vehicle of vaccination, which will help us avoid serious illnesses including ending up in clinic or even falling victim to the virus,” he said.
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Germany may also declare neighboring countries to South Africa to be virus variant areas on Friday. According to information from the Reuters news agency from the Ministry of Health, the regulation will come into force at night. Airlines will then only be allowed to return Germans to Germany. Vaccinated persons also have to be in quarantine for 14 days after their entry.
“We were, are and will remain cautious when entering the country,” stressed Spahn. “This newly discovered variant worries us. That is why we act pro-actively and at an early stage. The last thing we are missing now is a new variant that has been brought in, which causes even more problems. “
Lufthansa wants to continue to South Africa
Lufthansa is maintaining the flight connections to South Africa for the time being. “We are implementing the requirements and will continue to fly, also to bring people home and transport freight,” said a company spokesman. Lufthansa is closely monitoring the situation and complying with all legal requirements and rules.
The EU Commission wants to go one step further than the German government and massively shut down air traffic from southern Africa .1.1.529 “, tweeted EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The EU states still have to discuss and decide on this. The emergency brake would not be legally binding, but it would be an important directional decision.
According to official information, a person was identified in Israel who was infected with a new variant of the coronavirus that was first discovered in South African countries. The Ministry of Health announced on Friday that two other people are suspected cases who are still waiting for their test results. You are in quarantine. A spokeswoman for the authority to combat corona confirmed that it is variant B.1.1.529, which comes from southern Africa.
The infected person returned to Israel from Malawi, the ministry said. The other two have also returned from abroad. All three people have been vaccinated. Their exact status is currently being checked. Further contacts are also being sought.
Israel imposed immediate travel restrictions for several African countries on Thursday out of concern about the new variant of the corona virus. South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini have been classified as “red countries” after a special consultation, said the office of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
In Japan, the government has also decided to tighten border controls for travelers from South Africa and five other African countries, as reported by the Jiji news agency. The background is the new coronavirus variant discovered in South Africa. India also reacts and allows international travelers from South Africa and other countries to be consistently tested and checked.
The World Health Organization WHO is already investigating whether B.1.1.529 should be classified as a matter of concern. That said WHO expert Maria van Kerkhove in a briefing. It will also be examined to what extent the variant has consequences for diagnostics, therapies and vaccination campaigns.
More contagious than other variants?
The British government is restricting air traffic from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Eswatini and Namibia because of the new virus variant. Health Minister Sajid Javid said that there was a strict hotel quarantine requirement for those arriving.
UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says the new virus variant is considered by scientists to be the most notable mutation discovered to date. It must be determined whether it makes vaccines ineffective or not. The variant with the name B.1.1.529 has a spike protein that is dramatically different from that of the original variant against which vaccines have been developed. Shapps adds that the lesson from Covid is that quick action is urgently needed.
So far, no cases with the new variant, which is said to have around 30 mutations, have been found in the UK. But according to the PA news agency, 500 to 700 people from South Africa alone arrive in the country every day. A higher number is expected over the Christmas season.
The executive head of the Chancellery, Helge Braun (CDU), announced a swift reaction to the new coronavirus variant discovered in South Africa. The new virus variant worries him very much, he said on ARD. “The scientists are all extremely alarmed.”
More: Is compulsory vaccination legally permissible?