Fears of a new Covid variant have prompted a desperate search for ‘hundreds’ of passengers who have recently arrived from South Africa.
After a new virulent Covid strain was discovered in the country, a manhunt is underway to track hundreds of passengers who have recently arrived from South Africa.
It comes as UK officials have issued a warning about the B1.1.529 variant, which has the potential to evade immunity gained through vaccination or prior infection.
Hundreds of people who have recently arrived in the UK from South Africa are being advised to take a free PCR test while UK health officials discuss how to deal with the new variant threat.
Flights from South Africa and its neighboring countries Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini, and Zimbabwe will be temporarily banned from noon tomorrow, according to Health Minister Sajid Javid, and UK travelers will be required to quarantine.
“Anyone arriving from those countries from 4 a.m. on Sunday will be required to quarantine in hotels,” he said.
“If anyone arrives before then, they should isolate themselves at home and take a PCR test on days two and eight.”
“We would ask anyone who has arrived from any of those countries in the last 10 days to submit to PCR tests.”
“The early indication we have of this variant is that it may be more transmissible than the Delta variant, and the current vaccines may be less effective against it,” he added.
There have been no confirmed cases of the new variant in the UK so far.
“Our scientists are deeply concerned about this variant,” Mr Javid added.
Of course, I’m concerned, and that’s one of the reasons we’ve taken this step today.”
When asked what the situation meant for the UK in the coming weeks, Mr Javid said: “As people know, we’ve got plans in place for the spread of this infection here in the UK, and we have contingency plans — the so-called Plan B.”
“However, today’s announcement is about a new South African variant — it’s been detected in both South Africa and Botswana — and it’s about being cautious, taking action, and doing our best to protect our borders.”
Experts have warned that it may be worse than Delta because it has the most mutations.
The variant has yet to reach the United Kingdom, and case numbers are still low.
Infection of the variant dubbed Botswana has tripled since it was first discovered, causing a surge in Covid cases in South Africa in recent days.
It comes two weeks after the variant was first discovered in the neighboring country.
A total of less than 100 cases have been discovered…
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[A] very unusual constellation of mutations.
Professor Tulio de Oliveir