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Earlier on Friday, the European Union banned travel from southern Africa to slow the spread of a new Covid-19 strain B.1.1.529 that scientists fear will torpedo efforts to contain the pandemic.
The global market plunged as news that a new variant of covid-19 may be more infectious than the Delta Variant and possibly more resistant to vaccines could deal a heavy blow to global recovery.
The B.1.1.529 strain, a heavily mutated strain, is now being studied by scientists in attempts to pin down its characteristics and threat.
In its analysis of the variant, the World Health Organization (WHO) cautioned against imposing new travel restrictions.
The WHO recommends that countries apply a risk-based and scientific approach when implementing travel measures. Developing travel measures is discouraged, said spokesman Christian Lindmeier.
The European Union is already dealing with a new Coronavirus outbreak, and returning restrictions have sparked riots in some countries.
European Union to coordinate joint action
On Friday, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Austria also announced travel bans.
All of the bans included South Africa, and in many cases also Botswana, Eswatini (Swaziland), Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
According to the EU commission, the bloc’s 27 members would coordinate their joint action as soon as possible.
As Germany battles, a ferocious fourth wave of the pandemic, acting health minister Jens Spahn said, “The last thing we want is to introduce a new variant that will cause more problems.”
The rush to close off southern Africa comes a day after scientists in Johannesburg, South Africa said they had detected the new B.1.1.529 strain with at least 10 Mutations of the virus, compared with two for the Delta Variant.
The variant was of “serious concern” and had been blamed for increasing infection rates, authorities in South Africa said Thursday.
Additionally, travelers from South Africa were infected in Botswana and Hong Kong.