Cape Town – The United Kingdom is set to place South Africa back on its red list after scientists in the southern African country confirmed on Thursday that they had detected a new Covid-19 variant with multiple mutations.
The UK would refuse entry to South Africans and others who have been in the southern African region in the previous days, as a precautionary measure.
“The government is taking decisive precautionary action against a new Covid-19 variant by introducing travel restrictions on arrivals from South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia from midday tomorrow (Friday 26 November).
“… No cases have been identified in the UK. We are taking these precautionary measures to protect public health and the progress we’ve made so far through our successful vaccination programme,” the UK government said in a statement.
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Scientists in South Africa said the variant, which goes by the scientific lineage number B.1.1.529, “has a very high number of mutations”.
It has also been detected in Botswana and Hong Kong among travellers from South Africa
Health Minister Joe Phaahla said the variant was of “serious concern” and behind an “exponential” increase in reported cases.
Daily infections shot to more than 1 200 cases on Wednesday, from around 100 earlier this month.
South Africa last year detected the Beta variant of the virus although until now infection numbers have been driven by the Delta variant, which was originally detected in India.
South Africa has the highest pandemic numbers in Africa, notching up around 2.95 million cases, of which 89 657 have been fatal.
Picture: Getty Images
Additional reporting by AFP