Coronavirus variant: UK put safety first over Africa travel – Shappson November 26, 2021 at 8:16 am

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The transport secretary says he cannot take a risk over a variant that may defeat the Covid vaccine.

File pic of people arriving at Heathow

Image source, PA Media

The UK cannot take a risk over a new coronavirus variant identified in South Africa which may be able to evade the protection of vaccines, the transport secretary has said.

Grant Shapps told the BBC the UK “acted immediately” with a “safety first” approach by placing six countries on its red list to restrict travel.

Susan Hopkins, the UK Health Security Agency’s chief medical adviser, said it was the “most worrying” variant yet.

No cases have been confirmed in the UK.

From midday travellers from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini will have to self-isolate for 10 days, with those arriving after 04:00 GMT on Sunday required to quarantine in a hotel.

All flights from the six countries are also being suspended.

South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana have identified just 59 cases of the variant, known as B.1.1.529, so far, while Israeli media also reports one case had been identified from a traveller.

Mr Shapps paid tribute to South Africa’s fast and transparent response, and said of the UK’s decision to restrict travel: “This is a safety-first approach.”

He said the UK “acted immediately” because “we can’t take risks when it comes to something that could defeat the vaccine”, as scientists fear may be possible.

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