Several governments around the world moved to tighten restrictions on travel from countries in southern Africa after the discovery of a new variant of the coronavirus, which was described by researchers as very different from previous incarnations and of serious concern.
Concerns about the spread of variant B.1.1.529 grew after two people in hotel quarantine in Hong Kong turned out to be infected with it. Shares slipped during the day, with travel shares among the biggest declines. US government bonds and the yen strengthened in demand for havens.
South African researchers are trying to determine how quickly the new variant can spread and whether it is resistant to Covid-19 vaccines, according to Tulio de Oliveira, a bioinformatics professor who runs gene sequencing institutions and advises the country’s government. “I’m very, very worried,” he said.
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Japan expands controls on variant (17:50 HP)
Japan will intensify border control measures for arrivals from South Africa and five neighboring countries due to concerns over a new variant of the corona virus, said Prime Minister Hirokazu Matsuno.
Malaysia restricts travel from South Africa (17:44 HP)
Malaysia moved to restrict travel to and from southern Africa after the discovery of a new Covid-19 strain, which was described by scientists as very different from previous incarnations and of serious concern.
Philippines reopens for some tourists (17:08 HP)
The Philippines will reopen to foreign tourists from low-risk areas during the first two weeks of December, as it monitors the new coronavirus variant identified in South Africa.
Italy bans travel access from South Africa (16:19 HP)
Italy will ban access for travelers who have been to South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini for the past fourteen days, Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza wrote on Facebook on Friday.
Germany declares SA Virus Variant Area (15:55 HP)
Germany will declare South Africa a virus variant area, says Minister of Health Jens Spahn in a tweet. Airlines will only transport German residents back to Germany, with a 14-day quarantine applicable to all returnees, including the vaccinated.
Czech cases jump when curbs are tightened (15:35 HP)
The Czech Republic reported a record 27,717 new cases in 24 hours until Friday. This is almost a third higher than the highest daily number from the spring pandemic wave.
The government announced a state of emergency from today and introduced new curbs, including a ban on Christmas markets and restrictions on the opening hours of bars and restaurants. The country banned the entry of non-EU citizens who have recently stayed in eight African countries to prevent the spread of the new Covid-19 variant, said Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhanek.
New variant identified in Israel (15:34 HP)
Israel identified a case of the new Covid-19 variant recently discovered in southern African countries by a passenger entering the country from Malawi, the health ministry said. Two other people are suspected of being infected with the strain and have been quarantined until their test has been verified.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett banned travel to countries where the variant had already been detected and ordered all passengers returning from these areas to be quarantined at designated hotels for seven days until showing two negative coronavirus tests. The list of countries designated by Israel as red had not included Malawi.
EU proposes air brake from South Africa (15:31 HP)
The European Commission will propose, in close coordination with the Member States, to activate the emergency brake to stop flights from the southern African region due to the variant of concern B.1.1.529, said President Ursula von der Leyen in a tweet.
Digital passports required in Catalonia (15:30 HP)
As of today, the Spanish region of Catalonia requires a digital certificate known as a Covid passport to enter restaurants, bars, gyms, theaters and cinemas. The mandate was put in place after the green light by the region’s highest court. Similar attempts in other regions, such as the Basque Country, have been blocked by judges.
Ireland strengthens council for meetings (15:18 HP)
Ireland will recommend children to avoid indoor gatherings over the next two weeks, state television company RTE reported, as cases increase. Government advisers say that children aged 12 or younger should stay away from events such as school games and birthday parties, while those as young as eight should wear masks at school and elsewhere. So far, under 12 years have not had to wear face protection. Almost a fifth of the cases in recent weeks occurred in people between the ages of five and 12.
Taiwan tightens quarantine (14:56 HP)
Travelers who have been to South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini and Zimbabwe in the last 14 days will now have to stay in centralized quarantine facilities for two weeks from November 29, the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control said in a statement.
Denmark faces more curbs (14:45 HP)
The Danish parliament agreed on more restrictions to combat an increase in infections. Face masks will once again be mandatory in public transport, in shops, hospitals and other places in the health sector.
The Nordic country is expanding the use of virus passports to include smaller public events. The government also decided to shorten the duration as a negative virus test is valid to 72 hours from 96 hours. The changes will take effect on November 29.
Singapore restricts travel from Africa (14:01 HP)
People who have been to South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe for the past 14 days will not be allowed to enter or transit through Singapore from 23.59 local time on November 27, the Ministry of Health said. The restriction will apply to those who had already received prior approval for entry.
Returning Singapore citizens and permanent residents will be allowed in but are subject to a 10-day quarantine at a special facility. The new rules will apply for four weeks, after which they will be reviewed and extended if necessary.
At the same time, Singapore will expand vaccinated itineraries to Thailand, Cambodia, Fiji, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Turkey, increasing the total number of countries in the program to 27, the air traffic controller said.
South Africa studies virus (13:45 HP)
South African researchers are working “lightning fast” to determine how quickly the current new variant of the coronavirus can spread and whether it is resistant to Covid-19 vaccines.
The results will still take at least two weeks, according to Tulio de Oliveira, a bioinformatics professor who runs gene sequencing institutions and advises the government on the pandemic. “I am very, very worried,” he said by telephone.
India intensifies traveler screening (12:21 HP)
India is intensifying the screening of all foreign visitors traveling from or through South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong following the discovery of the new variant at these sites.
The Ministry of Health has written to all state governments asking for rigorous screening at airports, as well as continued contact tracking. India has close ties to South Africa, with a large diaspora and family ties.
Shanghai cancels flight (11:50 HP)
More than 30% of flights from Shanghai Pudong International Airport have been canceled, state television company CCTV reported, after the city confirmed three local Covid cases on Thursday.
The new infections in China’s financial hub and a handful more in Zhejiang and Liaoning provinces appear just as hotspots elsewhere have receded, likely extending the country’s containment effort to a protracted battle during the winter months.
Australia Monitoring Latest variant (11:25 HP)
Australian health authorities are monitoring the new variant in collaboration with the World Health Organization and other international partners, but the country does not yet ban flights from South Africa and other African nations, said Health Minister Greg Hunt.
“We are flexible and if the medical advice is that we need to change, we will not hesitate,” Hunt said at a briefing, Sky News Australia reported. “That is what we have done as a country, whether it has closed borders, whether it has ensured quarantine, our approach is to look at the medical evidence and to act quickly and we will continue to do so. “
German case broke new record (10:43 HP)
Germany reported a record 76,414 new cases of Covid-19 compared to 75,961 the day before, according to the country’s public health agency RKI.
Reported new deaths in connection with the virus increased by 357, giving the total number to 100,476. The daily incidence also reached a new peak of 438.2 per 100,000 people.
New variant in Hong Kong (08:01 HP)
Hong Kong confirmed two cases of the new Covid variant that were first discovered in South Africa and Botswana after genome sequencing analysis by the University of Hong Kong.
One of the cases was a traveler who arrived in Hong Kong from South Africa. The other person was quarantined in the hotel room opposite and may have been infected when air flowed between the rooms.
Britain bans some flights to Africa (05:06 HP)
British authorities will temporarily ban flights from six African countries and quarantine travelers due to concerns about the new Covid variant.
The restrictions will take effect at lunchtime on Friday and are a precautionary measure to keep the spread of the new variant in check, said Health Minister Sajid Javid. The six countries will be placed on the UK Red List, requiring travelers to quarantine hotels on arrival in the UK