South Africa’s foreign ministry said Britain’s decision to ban flights from South Africa due to the discovery of a new COVID-19 variant “seems to have been accelerated”, as even the World Health Organization has not yet been able to afford the next step.
Researchers have so far only discovered the B.1.1.529 variant in relatively small numbers in South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong, but they are concerned about its high number of mutations that can help it avoid the body’s immune response and make it more transmissible.
The United Kingdom temporarily banned flights from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Eswatini on Thursday from the Friday after it was discovered.
“Our immediate concern is the damage this decision will cause to both the tourism industry and companies in both countries,” South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said in a statement.
South Africa will work with the British authorities to try to get them to reconsider their decision, the statement added.
South Africa has requested an urgent meeting of a working group from the World Health Organization for Virus Development on Friday to discuss the new variant.
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