EU, UK, Israel Suspend Flights from Southern Africa Over New COVID-19 Strain

As a result of discovering a novel COVID-19 form that is highly infectious, countries took rapid action on Friday to restrict aviation flights from Southern African countries.

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned against seeking to impose restrictions on travel in reaction to the B.1.1.529 variant in a hurry, alerting authorities to avoid “knee-jerk reactions.”

However, the European Union, which comprises 27 countries, said it would advocate banning commercial flights from Southern Africa.

At Least Three Cases in Israel

The European Union followed Israel and the United Kingdom in placing a travel restriction on Southern African flights. Will the United States of America likewise adopt a ban?

As Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute for Allergy and Contagious Diseases told CNN, it is possible. Still, researchers must first verify whether the variation can avoid antibodies produced by vaccinations and virus infection.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told Reuters the country is on the verge of declaring a state of emergency, per the news organization. 

In a statement released on Friday, Israel said it discovered the country’s first occurrence of the new type in a tourist who came back from a trip to Malawi.

The tourists and two other cases reported have been kept in isolation for their safety. It stated all three have been vaccinated, but is now investigating their specific vaccination status.

Restriction of Flights from Nearly Seven Southern African Countries

As of noon on Friday, airlines from South Africa and five additional Southern African nations were prohibited from entering the United Kingdom, the government stated.

Coronavirus testing will be required for everyone who has just arrived from one of those nations.

Germany is an EU member state that has seen daily case counts reach unprecedented highs recently. They have since implemented their flying restrictions from Southern African countries, as early as Friday night. 

According to German Health Minister Jens Spahn, the introduction of a new strain that causes even more issues is the last thing the country needs.

Italy’s health ministry has also established procedures to prevent anyone from entering the country who has traveled to any of the seven Southern African countries at any point recently.

As of Friday, Japanese residents traveling from Namibia, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, and Eswatini have been required to quarantine. They must quarantine in government-designated lodging for ten days.

In addition, they are required to submit to a COVID test on the third, sixth, and tenth days of their stay. Japan has still not opened its doors to non-Japanese citizens.

The next step to tackle this new COVID-19 strain is still unknown. However, a lot of people, particularly South Africans, are unhappy with the blanket travel restrictions placed on South African countries.