Netherlands bans flights from southern Africa over new Covid variant
Flights from southern Africa are banned from noon today due to concerns about the new coronavirus variant, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said. The countries involved will also be added to the list of very high-risk countries. Passengers on flights that are still en route from the region will be tested at Schiphol and must then be quarantined.
The countries involved are Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa
According to De Jonge, the new mutation is a "reason for concern," but a lot is still unclear. "This is a precautionary measure to prevent the introduction of a new variant that may be more contagious," De Jonge said.
He emphasized that the European Member States are working together. "That gives the maximum guarantee that you will at least delay its arrival."
Dutch people in South Africa have the right to come back, "but the double test obligation and the quarantine apply to them."
Virologist Marion Koopmans doubts whether stopping air traffic from southern Africa can stop the B.1.1.529 variant from reaching Europe. "I understand the reaction. Of course, we are all shocked. But experience shows that this may not have much effect because this virus has probably been circulating for a while," Koopmans said. According to her, it is "certainly conceivable" that the variant originated elsewhere. "And then it's mopping with the tap open."
According to her, South Africa has an excellent system to detect variants quickly, but it is necessary to find out where it comes from and how it is distributed. She finds this variant worrying because it seems to spread even faster than the Delta variant. Vaccination rates in the area are still low. "And the question is whether this variant reduces the protection of vaccines against serious disease."
Reporting by ANP