“As scientists have described, (this is) the most significant variant they’ve encountered to date,” British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News. The variant has a spike protein that is dramatically different to the one in the original coronavirus that COVID-19 vaccines are based on, the UK Health Security Agency said, raising fears about how current vaccines, successful against the more familiar delta variant, will fare. The World Health Organization (WHO) is to hold a meeting in Geneva at 1100 GMT. Experts will discuss the risks it presents and if it should be designated as a variant of interest or variant of concern, WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier said.
Register now for FREE unlimited access to reuters.com Scientists are still learning about the variant, first identified at the start of this week, but the news pummelled global stocks and oil amid fears what new travel bans would do to already shaky economies across southern Africa.
Register Britain banned flights from South Africa and neighbouring countries and asked British travellers returning from there to quarantine, while European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the EU also aimed to halt air travel from the region.
“I think we have to recognise that most likely this virus is already in other places. And so if we shut the door now, it’s going to be probably too late,” said Ben Cowling of the University of Hong Kong. South Africa will speak to British authorities to try to get them to reconsider their ban, the foreign ministry in Pretoria said. One epidemiologist said it may be too late to tighten travel curbs.
Nearly 100 sequences of the variant have been reported, and early analysis shows it has “a large number of mutations” requiring further study, Lindmeier said. TOO LATE TO TIGHTEN CURBS?
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