UPDATED 1:57 PM PT – Friday, November 26, 2021
The Biden administration is placing travel restrictions on several South African countries amid the discovery of a new COVID-19 variant. On Friday, the White House said Biden will restrict travel from eight countries, including South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. While a timetable for the travel bans has yet to be disclosed, Joe Biden claimed he will listen to what his medical team advises.
As we move forward, we will continue to be guided by what the science and my medical team advises. For now the best way to strengthen your protection if you’re already vaccinated is to get a booster shot, immediately. For those not yet fully vaccinated: get vaccinated today.
— President Biden (@POTUS) November 26, 2021
The new variant, which has been called B.1.1.529, has also alarmed global health officials who claim the variant may evade vaccines. On top of that, they warned it could be more transmissible than previous variants.
The U.S. appears to be following in the footsteps of the U.K. after the country banned six flights from African countries due onset. Britain’s Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, explained the decision.
“We will be suspending all flights from six southern African countries and we will adding those countries to the travel red list,” he stated. “Those countries are South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini and Zimbabwe and Botswana. And we will be requiring anyone that arrives from those countries from 4 a.m. on Sunday to quarantine in hotels.”
In a statement Thursday, the South African Health Ministry said the new variant was first found in Hong Kong and Botswana among airline passengers from the rainbow nation. According the U.K.’s Health Security Agency, no cases of the new variant have been officially detected in Britain at this time.
“Our scientists are deeply concerned about this variant,” Javid continued. “I’m concerned, of course, and that’s one of the reasons we’ve taken this action today.”
Scientists have said the new variant has a “constellation of new mutations,” but it’s still unclear how infectious it is. This comes after the Delta variant went into “self-extinction” in Japan due to multiple mutations.
We are working around the clock to understand effects on 1) Transmissibility, 2) vaccines, 3) Re-infection, disease severity, and diagnostics. We do have funding for science, but South Africa and Africa need financial help to support their deprived population and health system.
— Tulio de Oliveira (@Tuliodna) November 25, 2021
The World Health Organization is holding an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss the new variant. Meanwhile, the mainstream media has been quick to warn of spiking coronavirus cases ahead of the Christmas holiday season and is already claiming the new variant is “the worst ever” despite the lack of data on its transmissibility.