« Le nouveau variant n'a pas encore été diagnostiqué en France », a déclaré Olivier Véran, alors que Matignon a confirmé la suspension des vols en provenance d'Afrique australe.

A new version of the Covid virus: France suspends arrivals from South Africa

Posted on Nov 26, 2021 at 10:40amUpdated November 26, 2021 12:02 PM

In the midst of the fifth wave of variable delta, will the EU have to deal with a new wave of the alternative? A new species, more contagious than Delta, and potentially resistant to vaccines, has been discovered in South Africa. As a precaution, France closed its borders to travelers from South Africa.

“A decision has been taken to immediately suspend all flights from South Africa” ​​for at least 48 hours, Health Minister Olivier Veran said, on the sidelines of a trip to Brittany. In the process, Matignon confirmed the information, stating that travelers from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini are concerned.

“People who have traveled in the past 14 days in one of these countries are encouraged to report to the authorities and take a RT-PCR screening test as soon as possible,” Matignon added. Olivier Veran explained that the new variant “has not been diagnosed in Europe yet” and that travelers who have recently arrived will be under special monitoring.

European response to the study

“The European Commission will propose, in close coordination with member states, to activate the emergency brake to disrupt air travel from the southern African region due to Variant B.1.1.529,” he said. Ursula von der Leyen This Friday early morning. The European Commission president did not specify the number of countries involved in South Africa.

The European Executive is scheduled to present a proposal to representatives of member states at a meeting on Friday. Then it would be up to the European Council (the institution that represents the twenty-seven) to adopt such a recommendation. “The situation is changing very quickly. We want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to slow the spread of this alternative,” a commission spokesman told AFP.

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Close in other countries

Even before the community’s potential response and before France, some countries had taken the lead on Friday morning. Italy The Minister of Health, Roberto Speranza, has announced a ban on entry to its territory for anyone who has stayed in South Africa “within the past 14 days”. Countries affected by this measure are South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini.

Germany Health Minister Jens Spahn said his country would also prevent the entry of foreign travelers from South Africa into its territory. This rule, which will come into force on Friday evening, will apply to South Africa and “possibly neighboring countries”. Only German citizens will be allowed to return, subject to a fourteen-day quarantine, even if they have been vaccinated.

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Austria, for its part, will classify South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini as different trading regions. Entry is prohibited from these countries and flights from these seven African countries will be banned from landing from midnight on Friday. Austrian citizens have the right to enter the country, but they must adhere to strict quarantine rules (10-day quarantine, PCR test upon entry, registration).

Malta has taken similar steps. Outside the borders of the European Union, and even before it, the United Kingdom was the first country to close its border with South Africa. From Thursday, Minister of State for Health, Sajid Javid, indicated that all flights from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Botswana will be suspended from noon on Friday.

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Concerns, but there are still many unknowns

“We know very little about this new alternative at the moment,” Gabriel Attal admitted. It is called “B.1.1.529” and appears, according to the South African authorities, to be more contagious than the delta variant. Above all, it presents an “extremely high” number of mutations. There are several new genes that can offer this type of SARS-CoV-2 resistance to the immunity provided by vaccines.

At the moment, the delta type of coronavirus, which appeared in India, is almost the only one circulating in the European Union. Much more contagious than the historical strain of Sars-Cov2, it is responsible for the current fifth wave on the Old Continent. While it did not affect the effectiveness of vaccines against severe forms, it did reduce their effectiveness against transmission of the virus by 40%, according to the World Health Organization.

Avic AFP

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