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BREAKING Update – Two cases of new variant found in Belgium | Not detected in the U.S. yet | European countries bring in new travel restrictions

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

  • Video: How dangerous is B.1.1.529
  • Sajid Javid, the U.K.’s secretary of state for health and social care, made the announcement hours after the World Health Organization gave a briefing on the new variant.
  • The organization called for a special meeting on Friday to further study the variant, which has been detected in small numbers in South Africa
  • Update 11 p.m. GMT – Israel also ordered an examination of immediate halt to all flights to and from South Africa and neighboring countries

Last Updated 1:30 pm / November 26

Two cases confirmed in Belgium

Two cases of the new Covid-19 variant have been detected in Belgium, according to local media reports.

Marc Van Ranst, whose laboratory works closely with Belgium’s public health body Sciensano, said on Twitter that the variant was found in a traveller returning in Belgium from Egypt on Nov 11. The person developed the first symptoms on Nov. 22, the virologist said

Belgium is the first European country to detect cases, after the strain was found in South Africa, Hong Kong, Botswana and Israel.

U.S. health officials discuss variant with South African scientists, says Dr Fauci

Top U.S. infectious disease official Dr. Anthony Fauci has said federal health officials were in discussions with South African scientists about the new Covid-19 variant detected in that country, and that no decision had been made on a travel ban.

Dr Fauci told CNN in an interview that there was no indication that the new variant was already in the United States and that it was unclear whether it was resistant to current vaccines.

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United Kingdom temporarily suspending flights 

Britain is bringing in travel restrictions for six African countries due to a new COVID variant that UK experts have called the “worst one we’ve seen so far”.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid tweeted: “UKHSA (UK Health Security Agency) is investigating a new variant. More data is needed but we’re taking precautions now.

“Six African countries will be added to the red list, flights will be temporarily banned, and UK travelers must quarantine.”

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Mr Javid said the new B.1.1.529 variant identified in South Africa “may be more transmissible” than the Delta strain – and warned, “the vaccines that we currently have may be less effective”.

Israel Bars Travel to and From South Africa Over New COVID Strain

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced South Africa and some neighboring countries were added to the list of ‘red’ countries after scientists announced the detection of the B.1.1.529 COVID-19 variant

After consultation with public health officials, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett ordered an examination of an immediate halt to all flights to and from South Africa and neighboring countries, but no decision has been announced yet.

HEALTH AND SCIENCE

WHO calls special meeting to discuss new Covid variant found in South Africa with ‘a large number of mutations’

The World Health Organization is monitoring the new variant with numerous mutations to the spike protein, scheduling a special meeting Friday to discuss what it may mean for vaccines and treatments, officials said Thursday.

The variant, called B.1.1.529, has been detected in South Africa in small numbers, according to the WHO. The variant has 30 mutations – twice as many as the Delta variant – and these mutations are likely to evade the immune response generated by prior infection and vaccination.

“We don’t know very much about this yet. What we do know is that this variant has a large number of mutations. And the concern is that when you have so many mutations, it can have an impact on how the virus behaves,” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19, said in a Q&A that was live-streamed on the organization’s social media channels.

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