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Travel doors slam shut as new Covid variant triggers alarm

(CNN) — The European Union and different main locations have moved to dam flights from African nations following the invention of an aggressive mutation of the Covid-19 virus, echoing earlier emergency responses that triggered a worldwide freeze on journey.

Italy, Austria, France, Germany, Japan and the the UK are amongst these imposing restrictions on flights and vacationers from six African nations after the new pressure, recognized as B.1.1.529 variant, was detected in South Africa, Botswana, and in a customer to Hong Kong from South Africa.

While solely dozens of circumstances have been recognized up to now, news of the variant, which has round double the quantity of mutations as the Delta variant, is already sparking fears world wide.

The cascade of closures started late Thursday as the UK introduced it will be quickly suspending flights from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini, with Health Secretary Sajid Javid describing the variant as the “worst ever” pressure of Covid-19.

Tourism fears

The transfer prompted the South African authorities to problem a press release describing the UK’s choice as “rushed,” and expressed concern in regards to the harm it will trigger to “both the tourism industries and businesses of both countries.”

In the hours since, Japan has tightened border controls for vacationers from the identical six nations, bringing in a 10-day quarantine starting 12 a.m. on November 27.

Meanwhile, Germany plans to declare South Africa a “virus variant area” from Friday evening, which is able to imply that airways might solely enter from the nation to repatriate German residents.

Fellow EU nations Austria, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Malta have all introduced imminent entry bans to all vacationers who’ve entered South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini up to now two weeks.

French Health Minister Olivier Véran mentioned the “rapid” circulation of the variant in South Africa “means that it’s probably contagious or very contagious,” justifying France’s precautionary stance.

Singapore has opted to ban all non-residents from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe from coming into, whereas nationals and everlasting residents getting back from any of those nations will likely be required to serve a 10-day keep residence discover (SHN). Malaysia has additionally taken related steps.

The developments have led to hypothesis that a number of the strict curbs on journey introduced in at first of the pandemic may very well be on their method again.

Return to restrictions?

Germany has also joined the list of countries banning flights from southern Africa.

Germany has additionally joined the record of nations banning flights from southern Africa.

Boris Roessler/image alliance/Getty Images

“There’s definitely a sense at the moment that restrictions are returning,” Rory Boland, journey editor at client journal Which? tells CNN.

“Not just southern Africa, Portugal has reintroduced tests for double vaccinated arrivals, and other countries are increasing restriction.

“When you are within the nation too, plenty of nations are requiring exams on high of vaccination. There are rising restrictions on boosters.

“There’s a sense that travel is becoming more difficult again — and that’s against a background of lots of people not feeling confident traveling already.”

World Health Organisation consultants have mentioned, whereas it is nonetheless too early to gauge what sort of influence the mutation may have, individuals ought to begin taking precautions proper now to cut back the possibilities of their publicity to it.

She mentioned it will take researchers a number of weeks to grasp what it [the new variant] means, however motion was wanted within the meantime.

“Everybody that’s out there needs to understand that the more this virus circulates, the more opportunities the virus has to change, the mutations we will see,” she mentioned.

“Every single one of you watching has a role to play in driving transmission down, as well as protecting yourself against severe disease and death.

“So get vaccinated when you’ll be able to, be sure to obtain the total course of your doses, and be sure to take steps to cut back your publicity and stop your self from passing that virus to another person.”

Financial impact

While it may be too early to gauge the impact of the virus, news of its emergence and the flight bans was enough to spook stock markets. European markets opening significantly lower on Friday — the UK’s FTSE 100 dropped by over 3%, while Dow futures were sharply down. Travel stocks, including airlines EasyJet, Lufthansa and Air France were hit.

The fresh anxiety comes as another blow for the travel industry, which has struggled to rebound after being brought to a near standstill during the first waves of the pandemic.

There are now fears that some travel companies may not survive if the situation with the new variant worsens.

“I feel sadly so — I’m not saying they may go bust within the subsequent couple weeks however the monetary state of affairs many are in may be very, very difficult,” said Boland.

“It’s not simply that bookings are down however they’re having to repeatedly problem refunds. They’re having issue getting financing from banks. There are plenty of market situations working towards them.

“The UK had very little sector specific support from government so there’s a real risk of further holiday chaos and airlines going bust.”

He went on to emphasize that customers ought to all the time test restrictions in any locations they’re planning to journey earlier than reserving and ensure they’ve acceptable protection simply in case.

“It’s really important to have cover for your holiday company or airline going bust. Otherwise you could end up losing hundreds or thousands of pounds.”

Top picture credit score: Leon Neal/Getty Images

CNN’s Julia Buckley, Barry Neild, Niamh Kennedy, David McKenzie, Angela Dewan, Allegra Goodwin, Mick Krever, Xiaofei Xu and Pierre Bairin contributed to this story.

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