Because of a new type of coronavirus identified in South Africa, which experts say is the most dangerous ever discovered and may be immune to vaccines, the United Kingdom is closing borders to travelers from six African countries.

Health Minister Sajid Javid said Thursday evening that as of midday Friday, six countries – South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini – will return to the travel red list. This means that all flights from these countries will be suspended, and only citizens and residents of the UK and Ireland will be able to enter the UK, but will have to quarantine in a hotel for a fee upon arrival.

Worldwide, only 59 cases of the B.1.1.529 variant have been confirmed so far – mostly in South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong. No cases have been detected in the UK so far, but the government has advised all those who have returned from one of these six countries in the past 10 days to get tested for the coronavirus.

Javid said scientists are “extremely concerned” about the new alternative, despite the need to learn more about it. What we do know, he said, is that he has a large number of mutations, “probably twice the number of mutations we saw in the delta variant.” “This may indicate that it may be more transmissible, and that the current vaccines we have may be less effective,” he explained.

The Minister of Health indicated that adding six countries to the red list is a precautionary measure aimed at protecting the borders as much as possible. At the beginning of October, the last seven countries were removed from the British travel red list, although the list was left behind in case the situation deteriorates.

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WHO experts will meet on Friday to assess the variable that has been classified as a surveillance variable on Wednesday. If it is upgraded to an annoying variant, it may get a name from the Greek alphabet.

From London Bartłomiej Niedziński (PAP)

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