This is the first time that the Air Force has had to use its so-called “flying intensive care units”, planes equipped with up to six ICU beds, to transfer covid-19 patients within Germany.
Berlin will also declare South Africa a virus variant area on Friday after the discovery of a new COVID-19 variant there, said a source to the Ministry of Health.
The decision, which takes effect from Friday night, will mean that airlines will be allowed to fly only Germans to Germany from South Africa, according to the source. Returning Germans, even those who have been vaccinated, must then spend 14 days in quarantine.
“This newly discovered variant worries us. That is why we are acting proactively and early here,” said Minister of Health Jens Spahn. “The last thing we need now is the introduction of a new variant that causes even more problems.”
The variant – called B.1.1.529 – has a “very unusual constellation” of mutations, which is worrying because they can help it avoid the body’s immune response and make it more transmissible, say South African researchers.