South African president calls for lifting of Omicron travel bans | News


South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on countries to “urgently” reverse “scientifically unjustified” travel restrictions linked to the discovery of a new variant of the coronavirus.

His comments on Sunday came as the highly mutated variant – dubbed Omicron – continued spreading around the world, with new cases identified in the Netherlands, Denmark and Australia.

Dozens of countries have blacklisted South Africa and its neighbours since South African scientists this week flagged the new variant. The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated Omicron a “variant of concern” that is potentially more contagious than previous variants.

“We call upon all those countries that have imposed travel bans on our country and our southern African sister countries to immediately and urgently reverse their decisions,” Ramaphosa said, in his first address to the nation since the detection of Omicron.

“The prohibition of travel is not informed by science,” he added.

“The only thing the prohibition on travel will do is to further damage the economies of the affected countries and undermine their ability to respond to, and recover from, the pandemic,” he added.

“These restrictions are unjustified and unfairly discriminate against our country and our southern African sister countries.”

The abrupt grounding of flights has spooked South Africa’s vital tourism industry, with booking cancellations increasing directly following the announcement. The country’s tourism sector lost $10bn in bookings in 2020 because of a drop in foreign visitors, and is estimated to lose about $10m every week flights are suspended from key overseas tourist markets.

Reporting from Johannesburg, Al Jazeera’s Fahmida Miller said there had been “a significant amount of frustration” among government officials and members of the scientific community over the travel curbs.

“There is a lot of concern around what these travel restrictions will mean [economically] for southern Africa as a region, especially ahead of the holiday period, when thousands of visitors from Europe are expected,” she said. “A lot of anger from the president and the government around the good work, they say, scientists have been doing on genome sequencing and also tracing COVID-19 changes, but instead South Africa being punished.”

Praising South Africa for informing the United Nations’ health agency as soon as its national laboratory identified the Omicron variant, Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa, also criticised travel curbs and called on countries to follow science and international health regulations in order to avoid such measures.

“Travel restrictions may play a role in slightly reducing the spread of COVID-19 but place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods,” Moeti said in a statement. “If restrictions are implemented, they should not be unnecessarily invasive or intrusive, and should be scientifically based, according to the International Health Regulations, which is a legally binding instrument of international law recognised by over 190 nations.”

Shabir Madhi, a South African vaccinologist, told Al Jazeera it was “naive” for countries “to believe they can stop the spread of this variant with a blanket ban on countries in southern Africa”.

“The virus has already found its way into these societies from individuals that haven’t even travelled to or come into contact with anyone from southern Africa,” he said. “In South Africa, we have one of the globe’s best COVID sequencing capacities based on our experience with treating HIV and TB. We have been ahead of the game for a while now and we are thus a victim of our success.”

While scientists are still assessing Omicron’s virulence, the WHO said on Sunday it was “not yet clear” whether the variant spreads more easily from person to person, or whether infection with the variant causes more severe disease compared with other strains.

“There is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those from other variants,” the agency said.

While preliminary evidence suggests there may be an increased risk of people who previously had COVID-19 being reinfected with Omicron, information is currently limited.

The WHO said PCR tests continue to detect infection with Omicron, adding it was working to understand the potential effects of the variant on existing countermeasures, including vaccines.

In his address, Ramaphosa said the “most powerful tool” to limit its transmission was the vaccine and urged South Africans to get jabbed.

He said the government was considering making vaccines mandatory for certain activities and locations in a bid to increase uptake.

Just about 35 percent of adults in South Africa have been fully inoculated due to a slow start to its vaccine campaign and widespread hesitancy.

The country is the worst virus-hit in Africa, with some 2.9 million cases and 89,797 deaths reported to date.

Omicron is believed to be fuelling a rise in infections, with 1,600 new cases recorded on average in the past seven days compared with 500 the previous week.





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Kamala Harris calls South Africa travel ban ‘necessary’ amid concerns over COVID-19 omicron variant


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Vice President Kamala Harris said Saturday that she has been briefed about the COVID-19 omicron variant and insisted that the Biden administration did what “is necessary” in implementing travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other countries to prevent its spread, but made no mention of additional travel restrictions.

Harris’ comments came during a visit to a Christmas market in downtown D.C. in celebration of Small Business Saturday.

OMICRON COVID-19 VARIANT CASES IDENTIFIED IN UK: LIVE UPDATES

US Vice President Kamala Harris makes her way to board a plane before departing from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on June 14, 2021. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

US Vice President Kamala Harris makes her way to board a plane before departing from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on June 14, 2021. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
(MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

“I have been briefed,” Harris told reporters. “As the president has said, we’re gonna take every precaution and that’s why we’ve taken the measures we have.”

Harris said she “can’t stress enough” how important it is for Americans to get their booster shots or their first or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. “I will say what I say every time because it remains true. They are safe, the vaccines are free, and they will save your life.”

President Joe Biden, with Vice President Kamala Harris on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Joe Biden, with Vice President Kamala Harris on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Asked about any additional travel restrictions, Harris thought for a moment and said, “We’ll take it one step at a time, but as of now we’ve done what we believe is necessary.”

Harris was accompanied on her visit to the Christmas market by second gentleman Doug Emhoff. The two bought an assortment of items, including candles from Smell of Love Candles, an “I’m Speaking” calendar, spices, maps from Terratorie and treats from The Capital Candy Jar.

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Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a press conference in Paris, Friday, Nov. 12, 2021. (Thomas Coex, Pool Photo via AP)

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a press conference in Paris, Friday, Nov. 12, 2021. (Thomas Coex, Pool Photo via AP)
(Thomas Coex, Pool Photo via AP)

On Friday, Biden restricted travel from South Africa and seven other countries starting Monday over concerns of the “heavily mutated” omicron variant, which has been identified in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.

The omicron variant, according to World Health Organization (WHO) officials, has a large number of mutations, “some of which are concerning.”

In addition to the U.S., the European Union, United Kingdom and Israel have halted air travel to southern Africa in response to the new variant.



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Covid live: two Omicron cases found in UK; South Africa ‘punished’ for detecting variant | World news


Movement restrictions, including international travel bans do clearly slow and limit the spread of infectious disease, and as is the case is with the current pandemic, allow countries the time and breathing space to prepare medical countermeasures as well as adapt strategies to control local outbreaks.

While for drug and vaccine manufacturers, largely based in the global north, it represents the firing of a start-gun in the next race for market share and profit as they test whether their currently licensed IP-protected vaccines will be effective and whether or not a new, modified vaccine is necessary.

So in effect, a low/middle income nation – along with the continent it sits in – is economically penalised, socially ostracised and socio-politically stigmatised for demonstrating global solidarity and doing the right thing through their timely reporting and sharing of the variant’s genetic data. Meanwhile, a small group of hugely wealthy pharmaceutical companies find new opportunities to generate exorbitant profits as fear starts to once again grip politicians and the wider public.

What’s necessary, therefore, to limit the negative socioeconomic impacts of these restrictive measures on trade and travel, is to have a sufficiently resourced global regime in place. This should support countries reporting new variants through the significant financial and social hardships that then ensue – a disaster or pandemic fund specifically engineered around the impacts of trade and travel restrictions.



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Biden restricts travel from South Africa and seven other countries starting Monday


Acting on advice from the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Biden administration will restrict travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.

Biden on Friday night signed the official proclamation restricting the travel of those “physically present” in the countries during the “14-day period preceding their entry, or attempted entry into the United States.”

The proclamation includes a list of those exempted from the new restrictions, including US citizens, lawful permanent residents and noncitizens who are the spouses of citizens or permanent residents.

It says it will remain in effect until terminated by the President and will not apply to any flights scheduled to arrive in the US that depart prior to 12:01 a.m. EST on Monday.

The decision to restrict travel comes as the federal government is still attempting to learn more about the new variant, named Omicron. They need to see more sequencing, but after discussing what they’ve seen so far, officials decided to halt travel from these other countries out of concern about what they don’t yet know.

Biden was briefed Friday on the new coronavirus variant circulating in southern Africa, he said in the announcement.

He told reporters later Friday of the decision: “I’ve decided we’re going to be cautious.”

“We don’t know a lot about the variant except that it is a big concern and seems to spread rapidly, and I spent about a half hour this morning with my Covid team led by Dr. Fauci, so that was the decision we made,” the President said.

Officials said the policy was implemented out of an abundance of caution given the World Health Organization has now identified this as a variant of concern.

“Our scientists and public health officials are working quickly to learn more about this variant,” one official said.

White House in contact with airlines

A senior Biden administration official said earlier Friday that several steps had to be taken before the restrictions begin on Monday, including the formal US proclamation, Transportation Security Administration directives and coordination with airlines.

“This is a quick timeline but there are things that need to be done beforehand,” the official said.

An airline source told CNN that airline executives and the White House were in touch Friday, prior to the announcement of new travel restrictions.

Another source familiar with the situation said there was a call Friday afternoon with the federal government and the airline industry. The federal government is working on drafting an official directive that will include guidelines for airlines that go into effect just after midnight Monday morning.

The trade group for major US airlines said it has “many unanswered questions” about the forthcoming restrictions. Airlines for America spokesman Carter Yang told CNN the group is communicating with the administration and believes that travel decisions must “be rooted in science.”

“We remain in communication with the US government as specifics remain unknown at this time and there are many unanswered questions,” Yang said. “Amid this rapidly evolving situation, it is critical that US government decisions regarding international travel restrictions and requirements be rooted in science.”

South Africa’s health minister announced Thursday the discovery of the variant, which appears to be spreading rapidly in parts of the country.

Buying time

The travel restrictions will buy the US federal government more time to investigate the new variant, officials say — but not much.

Inside the government, it is seen as inevitable that the new variant will appear in the US at some point, but the new restrictions should give federal health agencies and their global counterparts more time to learn about the variant, including the severity of the disease it causes. Officials do not believe, based on current thinking, that the variant is in the US yet.

Officials acted quickly to implement new restrictions. While the emergency of the variant had been flagged in the last several weeks, it was only in recent days that they learned how serious it was.

US officials are expected to speak to scientists in South Africa again, potentially on Sunday.

Currently, “there’s no indication” that the new variant is in the United States right now — and US scientists are working closely with colleagues in South Africa to learn more about the emerging variant, Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN’s Brianna Keilar before the travel restrictions were announced Friday.

“Right now, we’re getting the material together with our South African colleagues to get a situation where you could actually directly test it. So, right now you’re talking about sort of like a red flag that this might be an issue — but we don’t know,” he said.

“You want to find out if in fact it does evade the vaccines that we’re doing,” Fauci said when asked about potential travel restrictions. “You’re prepared to do everything you need to do to protect the American public, but you want to make sure there’s a basis for doing that.”

Several other countries — including the United Kingdom — have banned flights from South Africa and surrounding African countries in response to the emergence of the variant.

The travel restrictions do not apply to American citizens and lawful permanent residents. As with all international travelers, they must still test negative prior to travel.

This story has been updated with additional developments Friday.

CNN’s Allie Malloy, Jeff Zeleny, Gregory Wallace and Pete Muntean contributed to this report.



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Variant Detected in South Africa Prompts Travel Restrictions


The World Health Organization said a newly identified coronavirus variant in southern Africa was “of concern” on Friday, as countries around the world moved to restrict travelers arriving from that region to keep it from crossing their borders.

So far, only a few dozen cases of the new variant have been identified in South Africa, Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel. There is no proof yet that the variant is more contagious or lethal, or could diminish the protective power of vaccines, but uncertainty on those questions was one factor in the speed of countries’ move toward restrictions.

On Friday evening, the World Health Organization gave the new version of the virus the name Omicron and called it a “variant of concern,” its most serious category. “This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning,” the W.H.O. said in its official description. “Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant.”

Earlier on Friday, the European Commission proposed that its member countries activate the “emergency brake” on travel from countries in southern Africa and other affected countries to limit the spread of the variant.

“All air travel to these countries should be suspended until we have a clear understanding about the danger posed by this new variant,” Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Union’s executive arm, said in a statement. “And travelers returning from this region should respect strict quarantine rules.”

In the past, governments have taken days, weeks or months to issue travel restrictions in response to new variants. This time, however, restrictions came within hours of South Africa’s announcement. At least 10 countries around the world had announced measures before South African scientists finished a meeting with World Health Organization experts about the variant on Friday.

The United States and Canada announced restrictions on travelers arriving from countries in southern Africa. Other governments that halted or restricted flights from South Africa included Bahrain, Belgium, Britain, Croatia, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malta, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Singapore.

The new variant, initially called B.1.1.529, has a “very unusual constellation of mutations,” according to Tulio de Oliveira, director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research and Innovation Sequencing Platform. On the protein that helps to create an entry point for the coronavirus to infect human cells, the variant has 10 mutations, many more than the highly contagious Delta variant, Professor de Oliveira said.

Still, even epidemiologists who have been the most outspoken in supporting precautions against the virus urged calm on Friday, noting that little is known about the variant and that several seemingly threatening variants have come and gone in recent months.

“Substantively NOTHING is known about the new variant,” Roberto Burioni, a leading Italian virologist, wrote on Twitter, adding that people should not panic.

Stocks tumbled around the world on Friday as the news of the variant spooked markets and terrified many Europeans already exhausted by news of breakthrough infections, surging cases and rallies by vaccine skeptics.

Countries in Europe, once again the epicenter of the pandemic, were among the first to announce travel bans. Britain announced its restrictions on Thursday and put them into force on Friday.

“More data is needed but we’re taking precautions now,” Sajid Javid, the British health secretary, said on Twitter.

In the past two days, scientists in South Africa — which has a sophisticated detection system — discovered the variant after observing an increase in infections in South Africa’s economic hub surrounding Johannesburg.

“This variant did surprise us — it has a big jump in evolution, many more mutations than we expected, especially after a very severe third wave of Delta,” Professor de Oliveira said.





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9 Cities That Retirees Love In South Dakota


Retirees are flocking to South Dakota. The state is known for being tax-friendly and has a diversified economy. The state sales tax remains lower than most states at 4 percent. Combine this with local sales tax rates; the average South Dakota sales tax after local surtaxes are under 6 percent. Median home prices in South Dakota are $235,500, making this appealing to retirees. Affordable housing, combined with a low local tax rate, makes South Dakota attractive from a monetary standpoint. The outdoor amenities are the icing on the cake, making this a friendly state for all retirees. Here are nine cities in South Dakota that retirees love.

Sioux Falls of Sioux Falls, South Dakota
photo.eccles / Shutterstock.com

1. Sioux Falls

With a population of 171,00 and growing, Sioux Falls offers housing that retirees have grown to appreciate. Apartments, condos, twin homes, and houses are all priced right for your budget. Family life, healthcare, and four seasons make this South Dakota city one of the most livable places in the nation for retirees. The unlimited educational opportunities through Lifelong Learning programs help keep retirees in tune with what is going on in our world today. Sculpture walks, the Museum of Virtual Materials, award-winning Falls Park, and 80 parks make up Sioux Falls. With so many outdoor activities, this makes this town attractive to all retirees. If you wish to remain active and enjoy retirement, Sioux Falls will become your home of choice in southeastern South Dakota.

Pro Tip: The Sioux Falls Airport offers daily flights to Minneapolis, Chicago, Denver, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Dallas, making it convenient to travel from home.

The motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

2. Sturgis

When you hear the town of Sturgis, you often think of Harley Davidson Motorcycles. The annual motorcycle rally is held in August of each year. Thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts swarm upon this charming town in the Black Hills of South Dakota. If you visit, there’s a good chance that you will fall in love with this town. Retirees enjoy the small-town charm, with a little feel of suburbia. The upscale coffee shops and bars are places to relax and gather with your friends. Fewer than 7,000 people reside in Sturgis, this town is attractive to retirees that want a smaller community with four seasons. You can expect to pay nearly $162,000 for a home in Sturgis, with an average monthly rental price of $530.

Pro Tip: Plan your vacation for the first week of August, to avoid the crowds in Sturgis.

Downtown Rapid City, South Dakota
James Gabbert / Shutterstock.com

3. Rapid City

Rapid City sits on the eastern side of the well-known Black Hills in western South Dakota. Nearly 75,000 people call Rapid City home, making it attractive to retirees that want the feel of a big city, within small-town America. The proximity to the Black Hills makes this an attractive place to call home. The Black Hills offers activities all year long, with an opportunity to experience the four seasons. A sense of community is strong in Rapid City with retirees, as card games, pickleball, and pool are popular among the residents. Another bonus is that your grandkids will want to come to visit you, as the Black Hills offers a playground for kids of all ages. 

Pro Tip: Mount Rushmore is one hour from Rapid City.

The World's Only Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota
J K Laws / Shutterstock.com

4. Mitchell

Mitchell is known best for being home to the Corn Palace, the only one in the world. Each year this palace is redecorated in a different theme featuring the 12 different colors of corn. Concerts, trade shows, special exhibits, and other events are held in this venue. With a population near 15,500, this is the 6th-largest city in South Dakota. Mitchell is affordable for retirees, with home values hovering around $147,000. Outdoor enthusiasts appreciate fishing, swimming, hiking, paddle boarding, and canoeing. Small town charm is what you will experience if you retire in Mitchell, South Dakota. As you travel I-90, the exit to Mitchell is at Exit 332.

Pro Tip: You and your dog can exercise at the Mitchell Dog Park, featuring 2.3 acres for large dogs, and 0.85 acres for smaller dogs.

Aerial shot of Vermillion, South Dakota
Jacob Boomsma / Shutterstock.com

5. Vermillion

Vermillion is home to the University of South Dakota and the community pride runs high. Retirees enjoy this community in southeastern South Dakota since there is much to explore. The National Music Museum houses more than 15,000 non-western instruments and is an incredible place. Retirees may realize that their college days are long gone, but their love for college life still remains high. In Vermillion, residents of all ages feel young and have embraced an affordable lifestyle in this college town. Volunteer opportunities are abundant and help provide meaning to the life of retirees. Vermillion has more than 90 acres of parks for people to enjoy. From relaxing at a picnic table to hosting a family reunion, these parks offer a fantastic place to gather up your family. Frisbee golf, pickleball courts, and a lot of open green space make these parks extra inviting.

Pro Tip: Grab a sandwich from Mister Smith’s Bakery. In 2002, Oprah Magazine said this bakery is the home of “the best bread in the world.”

The yellow brick road at Storybook Land
The yellow brick road at Storybook Land (Lost_in_the_Midwest / Shutterstock.com)

6. Aberdeen

Art is strong in Aberdeen, through music, shows, concerts, recitals, theatrical shows, and Storybook Land. With close to 17 percent of the population being 65 and over, Aberdeen welcomes retirees. Housing is affordable, with an average home priced at $161,800. With a population hovering around 26,000, retirees can find large city amenities with quieter surroundings. Northern State University and Presentation College are in town, adding to opportunities for volunteerism and education. With two hospitals to serve the community, medical care is also easy to come by. Several parks offer hiking, birding, camping, and biking opportunities. You and your dog can exercise at three off-leash dog parks that are located throughout Aberdeen.

Pro Tip: Storybook Land is for people of all ages.

Downtown Watertown, South Dakota
Sabrina Janelle Gordon / Shutterstock.com

7. Watertown

Watertown is located off of I-29 at Exit 177 in South Dakota. Art and business are strong in this charming community that welcomes retirees. The Terry Redlin Art Center features more than 150 paintings of this artist’s work. Sushi, steak, burgers, pizza, and Mexican restaurants offer a nice variety of food choices for the food critic. The median value of a home in Watertown is $170,500. This small town of fewer than 25,000 offers direct flights to Chicago and Denver. This progressive town in South Dakota recently renovated the Goss Opera House in Downtown Watertown. Can you imagine hosting your family, for a family gathering, in a room in this historic opera house? You can call Watertown home and be anywhere in the world within a few hours. Retirees love the four seasons, ease of travel, and wide-open spaces.

State Capitol Building in Pierre, South Dakota
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

8. Pierre

Pierre is the state capital of South Dakota and the 8th largest town in the state. If you want to be in the middle of South Dakota, Pierre is where you want to call home. Retirees can easily find themselves traveling any direction and be in another state in a few hours. Outdoor lovers enjoy the Missouri River and Lake Oahe, one of the largest manmade lakes in the world. Fishing, hiking, camping, biking, and paddle boarding are popular summer activities. Winter brings cross-country skiing and snowmobiling into the spotlight. History buffs enjoy the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center and research opportunities in the State Archives research room.

Pro Tip: Book a dinner cruise aboard the last authentic paddle wheeler on the Missouri River.

The agricultural museum of Brookings, South Dakota
Jacob Boomsma / Shutterstock.com

9. Brookings

Brookings sits near Watertown, giving these two towns an extra dose of fun when it comes to living here as a retiree. The State Agricultural Heritage Museum is in Brookings, showcasing tractors and farm equipment that seem to go on for miles. This agriculture museum has an incredible volunteer program, including training and an opportunity to volunteer as often or as little as you like. Homes are valued at near $181,000, and close to 9.5 percent of the population is over 65 years of age. With three hospitals, Brookings offers high-quality medical care and choices when it comes to your care. Dakota Nature Park is popular for fishing, kayaking, and biking. With plenty of nature trails to explore, birding and hiking will be available all year long. Once the snow flies, grab your snowshoes and head for the trails. 

These nine towns offer incredible opportunities for retirees and something a little different. The location, proximity to other states, logistics, and historical sites are unique to each area. If you have ever stopped at the Corn Palace while traveling along I-90, it may have never crossed your mind that you may want to live there someday. Oftentimes, the places that we visit while traveling, become our home at some point in our lives. 

The people we meet when we travel often have an impact on where we live throughout our lives. South Dakota offers the opportunity to enjoy winter, spring, summer, and fall. Let’s face it, the fall foliage can be stunning in the Midwest. There’s a nice balance with a change of activities in South Dakota. Retirees can enjoy the season and know that there are new opportunities around the corner, as the seasons change. There’s something to be said about the change of seasons, as you never have time to be bored.

Read all about TravelAwaits‘ retirement information here, including these articles:



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New COVID-19 variant detected in South Africa sparks travel bans and an anxious wait for data


Johannesburg — A potentially dangerous new strain of the coronavirus is alarming scientists around the world and prompting governments to ban travelers from southern African nations. The variant was first detected in South Africa, where scientists were quick to flag it to the global health community.

As CBS News correspondent Debora Patta reports, there’s serious concern among experts that the new strain could set back the fight against the pandemic. 

South African officials say the variant, which has more mutations than previously detected strains that have emerged around the world, marks a huge “jump in the evolution” of the virus since the global health crisis began two years ago.

The concern is that it could be more transmissible and or more resistant to the current vaccine formulas, according to public health expert Professor Salim Abdool Karim.

“If this variant is as, or more transmissible than the Delta variant, it will be very difficult to anticipate it, to do anything different to what we have seen, which is that it would grow and spread across the world,” he told CBS News.


Delta variant makes up 99% of U.S. COVID case…

06:26

South African scientists have been working around the clock this week to determine just how bad the new variant, which thus far is being referred to only as B.1.1.529, really is. Lab results are still a few weeks away.

But despite the World Health Organization’s call for “a risk-based and scientific approach” as it urged nations not to adopt travel restrictions yet, some countries decided not to wait for the detailed scientific analysis. Britain, France and Israel have cancelled direct flights from South Africa and surrounding nations.
 
So far fewer than 100 cases of the new variant have been confirmed, largely among young people in South Africa, who have the lowest vaccination rate in the country.

South Africa calls British travel ban over new COVID-19 variant 'rushed'
A passenger is seen wearing a face mask in a taxi in Soweto, South Africa, on November 26, 2021, after the announcement of British and French bans on flights from the country because of the detection of a new COVID-19 variant there.

SIPHIWE SIBEKO/REUTERS


Botswana and Hong Kong also confirmed cases in travelers who had recently returned from South Africa, and on Friday, Israel said three people who had also just returned from abroad were infected with the strain. One of those patients came in from Malawi, but Israeli officials didn’t specify where the other two had flown in from. All three had been placed under mandatory isolation on Friday.
 
Health officials in South Africa said the reaction by other countries was premature, given how little was understood yet about the new strain. Karim noted that it was only detected thanks to South Africa’s excellent scientific surveillance of COVID-19 cases, which specifically hunts for new variants. Few other nations have such a robust genomic sequencing program to find the strains.

“It is true that other countries that may not have the same level of diligence,” he told CBS News, which means other nations, “may well have new variants like either this one or others. They just don’t know about it.”


African startup replicating Moderna vaccine

03:00

Since the first coronavirus vaccines became available more than a year ago, the WHO and public health experts around the world have warned that if doses aren’t shared with developing nations, even well-vaccinated countries will be at risk as new, potentially more dangerous variants are given the space — and unprotected human hosts — they need to evolve.

With less than 7% of the African continent’s total population vaccinated to date, there has been mounting pressure on pharmaceutical companies and the wealthiest countries to redress the huge imbalance in vaccine distribution.

Pfizer’s partner BioNTech said on Friday that it was already studying the efficacy of the companies’ COVID vaccine formula against the new strain.

“We expect more data from the laboratory tests in two weeks at the latest,” a BioNTech spokesperson told the French news agency AFP. “These data will provide more information about whether B.1.1.529 could be an escape variant that may require an adjustment of our vaccine if the variant spreads globally.”



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Israel bars travel to and from South Africa over new COVID strain – Israel News


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