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New COVID-19 Variant in Africa Triggers Global Alarm

The discovery of a new coronavirus strain sent shivers through most of the world on Friday, as countries rushed to ban air travel, markets plummeted, and experts convened emergency meetings to assess the hazards, which were yet unknown.

Medical authorities, including the World Health Organization, have urged against overreacting until the southern African variety is properly known. Nearly two years after COVID-19 surfaced and sparked a pandemic that has killed more than 5 million people throughout the world, a nervous world feared the worst, AP reports.

The new strain, according to British Health Secretary Sajid Javid, maybe more transmissible than the delta type, making immunizations less effective.

“We need to move rapidly and as soon as possible,” Javid added.

Some countries halted air travel from southern Africa, causing stock markets in Asia, Europe, and the United States to plummet. At the opening of trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 800 points. The price of oil has dropped by 7%.

“The last thing we need is to introduce a new type that would cause even more issues,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn said amid a large increase in cases in the European Union’s 27-nation bloc, which urged a ban on flights from southern African countries.

Flights “should be delayed until we have a full grasp of the danger posed by this new variety,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, adding that “travelers returning from this region should obey stringent quarantine restrictions.”

She urged extreme care, warning that “mutations could lead to the development and propagation of even more worrying viral variants that could spread globally in a matter of months.” Belgium was the first country in the European Union to report a case of the variation. It involved a visitor from another country.

“It’s a suspicious variety,” says the narrator. Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke stated, “We don’t know if it’s a highly harmful version.”

Israel, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, reported on Friday that it has discovered the country’s first case of the new type in a visitor returning from Malawi. The tourist was confined in isolation with two other probable cases. All three were immunized, according to Israel, although officials were investigating the tourists’ actual immunization status.

Fears of greater pandemic-related economic disruption were quickly aroused by the new variation. “Investors are more likely to fire first and ask questions later until additional information is available,” said Jeffrey Halley of Oanda, a foreign exchange trader.

Oil prices plummeted, with U.S. crude falling 6.7 percent to $73.22 per barrel and the international Brent benchmark falling 5.6 percent to $77.64 per barrel, both of which were exceptionally substantial changes for a single day. Because travel limitations lowered demand for fuel during the early breakout of the pandemic in 2020, oil prices plummeted.

Lufthansa was down 12.4 percent, IAG, the parent company of British Airways and Iberia, was down 14.4 percent, Air France-KLM was down 8.9 percent, and easyJet was down 10.9 percent. Dr. Michael Ryan, the WHO’s chief of emergencies, warned against “knee-jerk reactions” before the EU announcement.

“We’ve seen in the past that the minute any kind of variation is mentioned, everyone closes their borders and restricts travel.” “It’s critical that we keep our eyes alert and our minds engaged,” Ryan remarked. The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agreed and warned against imposing travel restrictions on nations that reported the new variation. It stated in a statement that similar travel bans have “not delivered a meaningful consequence” in previous pandemics.

The United Kingdom has barred flights from South Africa and five other southern African nations, effective at noon on Friday, and has asked anybody who has just arrived from those countries to have a coronavirus test. Germany has said that its flying ban might go into effect as early as Friday night. According to Spahn, flights returning from South Africa will only be able to take German nationals home, and all travelers, whether vaccinated or not, will be required to enter quarantine for 14 days.

In recent days, Germany has experienced record daily case counts, with COVID-19 deaths surpassing 100,000 on Thursday.

Anyone who has spent the previous 14 days in any of the seven southern African countries – South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, and Eswatini — would be denied admission to Italy, according to Italy’s health ministry. Similar measures were envisaged in the Netherlands and the Czech Republic.

Japanese nationals going from Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, and Lesotho will be required to quarantine for ten days and take COVID-19 tests on the third, sixth, and tenth days, according to the Japanese government. Japan has not yet opened its doors to foreigners.

The South African government said the UK’s decision to temporarily restrict South Africans from entering “appears to have been hurried,” noting the WHO’s failure to issue a recommendation on next steps.

As the coronavirus spreads, numerous new varieties emerge, including ones with potentially dangerous alterations. Scientists keep an eye out for alterations that could make the virus more transmissible or deadly, but determining the precise hazards of new varieties takes time.

The WHO’s technical working committee will meet on Friday to analyze the new variety, which is now known as B11.529, and to decide if it should be given a Greek alphabet name. According to the report, coronavirus infections increased by 11% in Europe in the last week, making it the only region in the globe where COVID-19 is still on the rise.

Dr. Hans Kluge, the WHO’s Europe director, warned that without immediate action, the continent might see another 700,000 fatalities by spring.

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