EU to propose ban on flights from southern Africa over new variant

The European Union (EU) has proposed a ban on flights from the southern Africa region over the spread of the new coronavirus variant. 

“The @EU_Commission will propose, in close coordination with Member States, to activate the emergency brake to stop air travel from the southern African region due to the variant of concern B.1.1.529.,” EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen tweeted Friday.

EU Commission spokesperson Dana Spinant said at a news conference the committee wants to act “very fast” and “be vigilant” in order to prevent the virus from entering Europe, according to The Washington Post.

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“Our view is very clear,” Spinant said. “We need to act very fast, we need to be vigilant, and we need to take all measures that are appropriate at this stage to prevent this virus from entering Europe.”

This comes as several European countries including France and the U.K. have started to restrict flights from the region due to concerns over the latest COVID-19 variant. 

South African health officials confirmed at a media briefing Thursday the discovery of the new variant called B.1.1529, saying the variant is “very different” from past mutations from the virus. 

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In a statement, South Africa Minister of Tourism Lindiwe Sisulu shared her disappointment with Great Britain placing her country on its "red-list" again. 

“While this is most disappointing South Africa will continue working with policy makers in the UK, Japan, Israel and European Union to ensure that the best possible interventions are put in place. I would like to commend the South African scientists on their diligence and all the work they have done and remain confident that all measures will be put in place to mitigate the spread of the virus,” Sisulu said in the statement.