International rush to ban travellers from southern Africa over new Covid-19 variant

The invention in South Africa of a brand new coronavirus variant triggered international alarm on Friday as international locations rushed to droop journey from quite a lot of international locations in southern Africa and inventory markets on each side of the Atlantic suffered their greatest falls in additional than a yr.

The World Well being Group (WHO) mentioned the brand new variant, which it named Omicron, could unfold extra rapidly than different variants of Covid-19 and preliminary proof advised there’s an elevated danger of reinfection.

Epidemiologists warned journey curbs could also be too late to cease Omicron from circulating globally. The brand new mutations have been first found in South Africa and have since been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong.

Learn FRANCE 24’s protection of the day’s occasions.

21:11 Paris time

Inventory markets and oil costs plunge over fears of latest variant

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Inventory markets and oil costs fell sharply on Friday over fears of the brand new variant that scientists warn might be extra infectious than the Delta pressure and extra proof against vaccines, doubtlessly dealing a heavy blow to the worldwide financial restoration.

The Dow Jones Industrial Common noticed its worst drop of the yr as Wall Road indices plunged and the greenback floundered, whereas haven investments such because the yen and Swiss franc rallied.

"It's a single-track market right now," mentioned Ross Mayfield, funding technique analyst at Baird, pointing to fears that the brand new variant might be worse than the Delta pressure, which slowed US progress and hiring within the third quarter.

"I feel the market's response to the extent of uncertainty being confronted proper now, particularly close to all-time highs earlier than this, in all probability makes some sense," he mentioned.

US crude oil costs tumbled greater than 13 % and the primary worldwide contract misplaced almost 12 %, which CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson attributed to "considerations that this new mutation may add to the strain on demand”.

20:34 Paris time

WHO names new COVID variant omicron

The World Well being Group (WHO) on Friday labeled the B.1.1.529 variant detected in South Africa as a SARS-CoV-2 "variant of concern," saying it could unfold extra rapidly than different kinds.

Preliminary proof advised there’s an elevated danger of reinfection and there had been a "detrimental change in Covid-19 epidemiology," it mentioned in an announcement after a closed assembly of impartial specialists who reviewed the info.

Infections in South Africa had risen steeply in current weeks, coinciding with detection of the variant now designated as omicron, WHO mentioned.

"This variant has a lot of mutations, a few of that are regarding. Preliminary proof suggests an elevated danger of reinfection with this variant, as in comparison with different (variants of concern), it mentioned.

Omicron is the fifth variant to hold such a designation.

"This variant has been detected at quicker charges than earlier surges in an infection, suggesting that this variant could have a progress benefit," the WHO mentioned.

Present PCR checks proceed to efficiently detect the variant, it mentioned.

20:27 Paris time

US and Canada limit journey from southern African international locations

The US introduced it’s limiting journey from eight southern African international locations over fears of a brand new variant of Covid-19 detected in South Africa.

Journey can be largely banned beginning Monday from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi, a senior official in President Joe Biden's administration mentioned.

Solely US residents and everlasting residents will nonetheless have the ability to journey from the eight international locations, the official, who spoke on situation of anonymity, added.

"The coverage was carried out out of an abundance of warning in mild of a brand new Covid-19 variant circulating in Southern Africa," the official mentioned.

"Our scientists and public well being officers are working rapidly to be taught extra about this variant," the official added.

"President Biden has promised to take each measure essential to preserve Individuals protected and defeat the pandemic, and this was a step really useful by US authorities medical specialists and the Covid-19 Response Staff."

Canada's Well being Minister Jean-Yves Duclos introduced on a ban vacationers from seven African international locations – Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe – over considerations concerning the unfold of a brand new Covid pressure.

There aren’t any direct flights to Canada from the seven nations listed within the ban.

Canadian vacationers arriving not directly from the area can be required to acquire a pre-flight unfavorable Covid take a look at and quarantine for 14 days on arrival within the nation.

The journey restrictions can be in place till January 31, whereas officers "assess the evolving state of affairs," mentioned Transport Minister Omar Alghabra.

18:32 Paris time

EU to activate ‘emergency break’ and limit journey from southern Africa

European Union member states have agreed to limit journey from southern Africa after the detection of a brand new Covid-19 variant, the presidency of the EU mentioned on Friday.

A committee of well being specialists from all 27 EU states "agreed on the necessity to activate the emergency break & impose short-term restriction on all journey into EU from southern Africa", the Slovenian presidency of the EU mentioned on Twitter.

Restrictions will apply to Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, European Fee spokesperson Eric Mamer mentioned on Twitter.

"Assessments, quarantine and make contact with tracing for incoming passengers are essential," he wrote.

#COVID19 | ❗️Built-in Political Disaster Response mechanism (#IPCR) met & agreed on the necessity to activate the #emergency break & impose short-term restriction on all journey into EU from southern #Africa.#EU2021SI referred to as upon Members to check & quarantine all incoming passengers.❗️

— EU2021SI (@EU2021SI) November 26, 2021

17:35 Paris time

South Africa’s well being minister says journey bans ‘unjustified’

South African Well being Minister Joe Phaahla confirmed that preliminary research counsel a brand new Covid-19 variant detected in his nation could also be extra transmissible, however he mentioned that the choice of different international locations to impose restrictions on journey to and from South Africa is “unjustified”.

Phaahla advised a media briefing on Friday that South Africa was appearing with transparency, and that journey bans contravene the norms and requirements of the World Well being Group. He mentioned that the “knee-jerk response” doesn’t make sense, as “many international locations which have taken draconian measures are themselves battling an infection waves”.

16:47 Paris time

EU drug regulator: Too early to know if variant requires up to date vaccine

The EU’s drug regulator mentioned on Friday it was carefully monitoring the brand new B.1.1.529 variant of Covid-19 but it surely was "untimely" to inform if up to date vaccines can be wanted to battle it.

“EMA considers it untimely for the time being to foresee the necessity of an tailored vaccine with a unique composition with a purpose to sort out this rising variant,” the European Medicines Company mentioned in an announcement to AFP.

14:52 Paris time

Japan introduces 10-day quarantine over variant

Japan mentioned Friday it is going to require a 10-day quarantine interval for travellers arriving from six international locations after the invention in South Africa of a brand new Covid-19 variant.

From Saturday, Tokyo will ask travellers coming from South Africa and neighbouring Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Botswana to remain at designated amenities on arrival.

They may even be examined instantly after touchdown, in addition to three different occasions throughout their 10-day quarantine, the federal government mentioned.

"We’ve got seen experiences that it is likely to be extra transmissible (than different variants) and that the effectiveness of vaccines towards it is likely to be unsure," Japan's Chief Cupboard Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno mentioned.

"So now we have determined to take utmost precaution," he advised a press convention, including that no circumstances of the variant had been found in Japan.

14:36 Paris time

Belgium publicizes first case of latest Covid-19 variant

Belgium mentioned it has detected the primary introduced case in Europe of the brand new Covid-19 variant, in an unvaccinated particular person coming back from overseas.

"We’ve got a case that’s now confirmed of this variant," B.1.1.529, first detected in southern Africa, Well being Minister Frank Vandenbroucke advised a media convention.

14:21 Paris time

Spain to droop flights to South Africa and Botswana

Spain may even droop flights to South Africa and Botswana from Tuesday over considerations concerning the extremely contagious B.1.1.529 Covid-19 variant there, state broadcaster TVE reported on Friday, following related selections by different European nations.

The Well being Ministry didn’t reply to a request for remark.

13:36 Paris time

Belgium imposes restrictions to scale back social contact

The Belgian authorities introduced in new restrictions on Friday corresponding to early closing of bars and full closure of nightclubs for 3 weeks to scale back social contact amid an an infection surge.

"We’re confronted with a state of affairs now that’s worse than probably the most pessimistic view of the specialists from solely two weeks in the past," Belgian premier Alexander De Croo advised a information convention, saying that the pressure on the well being service was mounting.

The brand new measures come only a week after a earlier package deal of coronavirus restrictions, together with implementing wider use of masks and extra working from house.

Beneath the brand new guidelines, Christmas markets, cultural websites, bars and eating places should shut at 11pm, with a most of six folks per desk. Non-public events and gatherings are additionally banned, until they’re for weddings or funerals.

13:20 Paris time

WHO cautions towards journey curbs over new Covid variant

The WHO has cautioned towards imposing journey restrictions as a result of B.1.1.529 Covid-19 variant, saying it might take weeks to grasp the implications of the newly found pressure.

The World Well being Group mentioned its Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution (TAG-VE) was holding a gathering Friday to debate the variant first detected by means of surveillance in South Africa.

"Early evaluation exhibits that this variant has a lot of mutations that require and can endure additional research,” spokesman Christian Lindmeie. "It is going to take a couple of weeks for us to grasp what impression this variant has.”

However the WHO is cautious on imposing journey restrictions regarding Covid-19.

"At this level, once more, implementing journey measures is being cautioned towards," Lindmeier mentioned.

13:16 Paris time

Merck says Covid-19 capsule cuts hospitalisation, demise danger

Merck & Co Inc mentioned on Friday its experimental Covid-19 capsule diminished the danger of hospitalisation and demise by 30 % in a research, in keeping with information from all of the sufferers enrolled in a late-stage research.

The corporate mentioned the info on the drug molnupiravir, developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, had been submitted to the US Meals and Drug Administration forward of a gathering of its professional advisers subsequent week.

A deliberate interim evaluation of the info final month confirmed that 7.3 % of these given molnupiravir twice a day for 5 days have been hospitalised and none had died by 29 days after the therapy. That in contrast with a hospitalisation price of 14.1 % for placebo sufferers.

Within the up to date information, 6.8 % of these given molnupiravir have been hospitalised and one particular person died, whereas the opposite placebo group had a hospitalisation price of 9.7 %.

11:43 Paris time

France suspends flights from southern Africa

French Well being Minister Olivier Véran on Friday mentioned France suspended flights arriving from the southern African area for 48 hours. The brand new variant has not but been detected in France, Véran added.

11:15 Paris time

Singapore, Malaysia curb arrivals

Singapore and Malaysia will limit arrivals from seven African international locations, well being officers mentioned Friday. The restrictions apply to South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.

Residents and foreigners holding everlasting resident standing can be allowed to return to Singapore and Malaysia, however should endure quarantine, well being officers in each international locations mentioned.

Malaysia additionally banned its residents from visiting the seven affected nations.

The curbs will kick in over the weekend in each international locations.

Neither nation has detected the brand new variant, however Singapore's well being ministry mentioned it was in search of to "take the mandatory precautions to scale back the dangers" of it reaching the city-state.

10:48 Paris time

German air drive to maneuver ICU sufferers as circumstances rise

The German air drive will start helping the switch of intensive care sufferers Friday as the federal government warned that the state of affairs within the nation is extra severe than at any level within the pandemic.

Citing the sharp rise in circumstances, Well being Minister Jens Spahn mentioned contacts between folks should be sharply diminished to curb the unfold of the virus.

“The state of affairs is dramatically severe, extra severe than it's been at any level within the pandemic,” he advised reporters in Berlin.

German information company dpa reported {that a} Luftwaffe A310 medevac airplane will fly severely sick sufferers from the southern city of Memmingen to North Rhine-Westphalia state Friday afternoon.

Hospitals in southern and japanese areas of Germany have warned they’re operating out of intensive care beds due to the massive variety of severely sick Covid-19 sufferers.

The nation's illness management company mentioned 76,414 newly confirmed circumstances have been reported prior to now 24 hours. The Robert Koch Institute, a authorities company, mentioned Germany additionally had 357 new deaths from Covid-19, taking the entire because the begin of the outbreak to 100,476.

10:15 Paris time

EU plans 'emergency brake to cease air journey' from southern Africa

In an announcement posted on Twitter Friday, EU Fee chief Ursula von der Leyen mentioned she would "suggest, in shut coordination with Member States, to activate the emergency brake to cease air journey from the southern African area".

The @EU_Commission will suggest, in shut coordination with Member States, to activate the emergency brake to cease air journey from the southern African area as a result of variant of concern B.1.1.529.

— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) November 26, 2021

A brand new coronavirus variant has been detected in South Africa that scientists say is a priority due to its excessive variety of mutations and fast unfold amongst younger folks in Gauteng, the nation’s most populous province.

The proposal comes because the 27-nation bloc is battling an enormous spike in circumstances.

The most recent spike is hitting the EU particularly badly, with governments scrambling to tighten restrictions in an try and include unfold. The flight ban proposal got here within the wake of comparable motion from Britain on Thursday.

The EU proposal got here a day after scientists in South Africa mentioned they’d detected the brand new B.1.1.529 pressure with at the least 10 mutations, in contrast with two for the Delta variant.

10:09 (Paris time)

Israel finds case of latest pressure

Israel has recognized a case of a Covid-19 variant with a lot of mutations first detected in South Africa, the well being ministry mentioned Friday.

"The variant found in southern African states has been recognized in Israel," the ministry mentioned, including it was recorded "in an individual who returned from Malawi".

Two extra circumstances have been detected in "folks coming back from overseas", it mentioned, including that they’d been positioned in quarantine.

The three folks have been all vaccinated, the well being ministry mentioned, with out specifying the variety of doses or the kind of vaccine.

9:38 Paris time

WHO assembly on Friday to designate new variant

The World Well being Group is convening an specialists' assembly from Geneva on Friday to evaluate the brand new variant, mentioned WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier.

"WHO is convening a gathering … to raised perceive the timeline for research which might be beneath means and to find out if this variant ought to be designated as a variant of curiosity or variant of concern," he mentioned.

Practically 100 sequences of the variant have been reported, and early evaluation exhibits it has "a lot of mutations" requiring additional research, Lindmeier mentioned.

The WHO had no remark thus far on journey restrictions imposed by some authorities on southern African international locations linked to the variant, he added.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

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