UK Adds Six Countries To Red List Following ‘Deeply Concerning’ New Variant Discovery
Six new countries have been added to the UK’s travel red list over concerns about a new Covid-19 variant described as the ‘most significant’ yet discovered.
The countries, which are all located in southern Africa, have seen flights to the UK temporarily banned, with travellers with permission to enter the UK required to undergo mandatory hotel quarantine.
Concerns have been raised over the B.1.1.529 variant after initial research suggested it may have the potential to evade immunity, with one scientist telling the BBC the variant in question was ‘the worst one we’ve seen so far’.
Newly added to the UK’s red list are South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
Only 59 cases of the variant have been confirmed so far, in South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong, where two cases were identified in men who had arrived in the country from South Africa.
However, in a statement confirming the temporarily travel ban, Health Secretary Sajid Javid described the new variant as ‘deeply concerning’, saying that while more research was required, it ‘may well be more transmissible and the current vaccines that we have may well be less effective’.
‘We are taking precautionary action to protect public health and the progress of our vaccine rollout at a critical moment as we enter winter, and we are monitoring the situation closely,’ he said in a statement.
Scientists have said that the increased number of mutations seen in this variant are cause for concern, but stressed that it was ‘too early’ to judge its risk. Other potentially significant variants of Covid-19 have failed to take a hold after being initially detected.
The red list update comes less than a month after all countries were removed from the UK’s red list in a major relaxation of travel restrictions. Prior to the new ban around 500-700 people were thought to have been arriving in the UK from South Africa each day, per the BBC.
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