Scientists have sounded the alarm over the new Covid variant as there are fears it could evade vaccines which has been described as the “worst we’ve seen so far.”
The Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced on Friday that flights will be temporarily suspended from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe and travellers will now be forced to quarantine.
Javid warned that the new B.1.1.529 variant could “be more transmissible” than Delta and “the vaccines that we currently have may be less effective”.
The Health Secretary added, “Our scientists are deeply concerned about this variant. I’m concerned, of course, that’s one of the reasons we have taken this action today.”
A senior scientist said, “One of our major worries is this virus spike protein is so dramatically different to the virus spike that was in the original Wuhan strain, and therefore in our vaccines, that it has a great cause of concern.”
Javid was asked what this could mean for the UK as Christmas is less than a month away, he said, “We’ve got plans in place, as people know, for the spread of this infection here in the UK and we have contingency plans – the so-called Plan B.
“But today’s announcement, this is about a new variant from South Africa – it’s been detected in South Africa and Botswana – and this is about being cautious and taking action and trying to protect, as best we can, our borders.”
He added, “Now to be clear, we have not detected any of this new variant in the UK at this point in time.
“But we’ve always been clear that we will take action to protect the progress that we have made.”
The suspension kicks in from 4am on Sunday and anyone who enters the UK after will have to quarantine in hotels.
Javid continued, “If anyone arrives before then they should self-isolate at home and take a PCR test on day two and day eight,” he said.
“If anyone has arrived from any of those countries over the last 10 days, we would ask them to take PCR tests.”