The United Kingdom has banned travellers from South Africa to prevent the spread of a new variant of the CCP virus linked to the country.
“From 9 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020, visitors arriving into England who have been in or transited through South Africa in the previous 10 days will not be permitted entry and direct flights will be banned,” the UK government said late Wednesday.
British and Irish nationals, visa holders, and permanent residents will be able to enter England but are required to self-isolate for 10 days along with their household, the government said in a statement.
This followed Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s revelation on Wednesday that a new variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus which was first identified in South Africa had been detected in two patients in the UK.
“This new variant is highly concerning, because it is yet more transmissible, and it appears to have mutated further than the new variant that has been discovered in the UK,” Hancock said.
Hancock said the chief scientific adviser and the chief medical officer and others had worked with their South African counterparts over the last day, and the cases were detected thanks to the UK’s surveillance and “the impressive genomic capability of the South Africans.”
Speaking at the same TV briefing, Dr. Susan Hopkins from Public Health England said the South Africa variant has very different mutations compared to the one found in the UK recently, but both of them “look like they’re more transmissible.”
The South Africa variant is being called 501.V2.
The UK government said it is “working closely” with international partners to understand the changes in the virus and is conducting further research in the UK to assess the risk.
The UK itself has been subject to travel bans by dozens of countries in Europe and beyond, after it revealed earlier this month it had detected a new variant of the virus.
Hancock on Dec. 14 told Parliament that the new variant of the CCP virus had been found in the UK. On Dec. 19, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the new variant, named “VUI—202012/01,” could be up to 70 percent more transmissible than the old variant.
As a result, more than 50 countries around the world suspended flights from the UK. France suspended all travel from the UK for two days, including travel linked to goods transport by road, air, sea, or rail, causing fears that the UK’s fresh food supplies may be impacted over the festive period.
Lily Zhou contributed to this report.