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Countries shuts borders over new Covid variant

The WHO on Friday cautioned against imposing travel restrictions due to the B.1.1.529 Covid-19 variant, saying it would take weeks to understand the implications of the newly discovered strain.
The UK, Japan and Singapore are among those rushing in stricter quarantine measures or banning flights from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe,Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini.
The UK, Japan and Singapore are among those rushing in stricter quarantine measures or banning flights from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe,Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini.

Geneva/ London: More countries are tightening their travel restrictions after a new coronavirus variant was identified in South Africa earlier this week. The UK, Japan and Singapore are among those rushing in stricter quarantine measures or banning flights from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe,Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini. The EU is proposing to ban flights from the region across the whole bloc.


The WHO on Friday cautioned against imposing travel restrictions due to the B.1.1.529 Covid-19 variant, saying it would take weeks to understand the implications of the newly discovered strain.


The World Health Organization said its Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution (TAG-VE) was holding a meeting Friday to discuss the variant first detected through surveillance in South Africa.


Germany and Italy on Friday joined Britain and other European countries in banning most travel from South Africa as governments scramble to prevent the spread of the new variant.


Singapore and Malaysia said they would restrict arrivals from seven African countries.


There are currently four variants of concern: Alpha, Beta (which was first documented in South Africa), Gamma and the overwhelmingly dominant Delta.


There are also two variants of interest: Lambda and Mu.


Scientists said the new B.1.1.529 variant has at least 10 mutations, compared to two for Delta or three for Beta.


"The concern is that when you have so many mutations, it can have an impact on how the virus behaves," Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO's technical lead on Covid-19, said at a virtual press briefing.


"It will take a few weeks for us to understand what impact this variant has on any potential vaccines," she added.


Neutralising the variant is "complicated by the number of mutations this variant" contains, said one of the South African scientists Penny Moore.


"This variant contains many mutations that we are not familiar with," she added.


The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said it will soon meet South African experts to discuss the variant.


"There are so many variants out there but some of them are of no consequence on the trajectory of the epidemic," Africa CDC head John Nkengasong told a news conference on Thursday. — Agencies


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