The South African government considered this Friday “hasty” the measures already adopted or under discussion in many countries to suspend flights and / or prohibit the entry of travelers from southern African countries after the detection of a new variant of the coronavirus (B .1.1.529) with multiple mutations.
The first countries to announce restrictions were the United Kingdom and Israel last night, in just a matter of hours after the announcement of the detection of this new variant.
The British market is especially important for the South African economy, which is why the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation issued a statement this morning stating that, “although South Africa respects the right of all countries to take the necessary precautionary measures to protect their citizens ”, considers the UK decision“ hasty ”.
Shortly after, however, countries such as Germany or Italy also announced restrictions and the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, reported that it will be proposed to the countries of the bloc to “activate the emergency brake” in a coordinated manner to stop the air traffic from southern Africa.
“It is hasty, absolutely,” he stressed to Efe Clayson Monyela, spokesperson for the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation, in response to these new announcements.
Monyela also asserted that South Africa will “dialogue with all countries” to reconsider these measures, since not even the World Health Organization (WHO) had time to define it as a “variant of concern” or to recommend measures.
The discovery of this new variant, identified as B.1.1.529, was announced this Thursday by scientists and health authorities in South Africa, based on samples taken in mid-November.
It is characterized by presenting multiple mutations (slightly more than thirty) that arouse the concern of specialists due to its possible impact on transmissibility and its potential ability to evade immunity or previous protection.
The impact of these mutations, however, still needs to be studied, since, at the moment, only around a hundred cases have been identified.
Scientists involved in its detection, such as Professor Tulio de Oliveira, from the KwaZulu-Natal Research and Sequencing Innovation Platform (KRISP, a scientific institution in eastern South Africa), criticized last night that the reaction of the international community tended to “discriminate “And to” isolate “the countries of southern Africa.
“We have been very transparent with the scientific information. We identified, made the data public, and raised the alarm just as infections are on the rise. We did this despite potentially suffering massive discrimination, “said Oliveira through social media, calling on the world to offer support to affected countries.
Although the cases detected are still few, this new variant, however, could be behind the significant increase in cases of covid-19 diagnosed in the South African province of Gauteng (where Johannesburg and Pretoria are located) in recent days.
In total, cases of this variant have so far been confirmed in South Africa, Hong Kong (in a traveler from the African nation) and neighboring Botswana, according to data provided by the South African National Institute of Infectious Diseases.