JOHANNESBURG: At least five countries have suspended flights from South Africa after a coronavirus variant was recently discovered in the country.
Germany, Turkey, Israel, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia are among the countries that have announced the ban in an effort to prevent the spread of the new strain currently termed 501.V2 Variant, reports Xinhua news agency.
The ban came into effect on Monday in most of these countries.
Germany was one of the first nations to announce the ban.
“Because of the reported coronavirus mutation, the federal government intends to restrict travel options between Germany and Great Britain and South Africa,” said Government Spokesperson Martina Fietz.
Israel also banned the flights on Sunday, saying that its citizens returning from South Africa would be required to undergo a 30-day mandatory quarantine on their return.
The new variant was discovered in the Eastern Cape and also affects Kwazulu-Natal and the Western Cape.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said his department has been observing a huge number of young people with no illness testing positive lately.
“The evidence that has been collated, therefore, strongly suggests that the current second wave we are experiencing is being driven by this new variant,” he said.
This new variant of the virus was discovered through routine genomic surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 performed by a network of laboratories around the country (Network for Genomic Surveillance South Africa, (NGS-SA), according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), a national public health institute of South Africa.
The new variant has been identified in almost 200 samples collected from over 50 different health facilities in Eastern Cape, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.
The new variant is different from the others that were circulating in South Africa because it
has multiple mutations (changes) in the spike protein.
A number of countries have also added Britain to their list of banned flights following the discovery of a new mutant variant.
Authorities in the UK on December 14 reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) that a new SARS-CoV-2 variant was identified through viral genomic sequencing.
This variant is referred to as SARS-CoV-2 VUI 202012/01 (Variant Under Investigation, year 2020, month 12, variant 01).
Initial analysis indicates that the variant may spread more readily between people.
Investigations are ongoing to determine if this variant is associated with any changes in the severity of symptoms, antibody response or vaccine efficacy.
The new VUI-202012/01 variant has been identified in several countries including Australia, Denmark, Italy, Iceland and the Netherlands, the WHO said.