New South Africa Covid variant has politicians calling for stricter testing policy
The Netherlands must be ready to keep a new coronavirus variant discovered in South Africa outside the door as long as possible. If the World Health Organization calls the variant "concerning," there should be a double testing obligation for travelers from South Africa. The D66 argues for this.
The party wants to know from caretaker Minister Hugo de Jonge (Public Health) whether vaccines can be donated to South Africa extra quickly. There should also be a double testing obligation on travelers if the WHO declares the mutation a "variant of concern." The WHO will meet on Friday about the virus variant.
The double testing obligation previously applied to countries with worrisome virus variants, but according to MP Jan Paternotte, it was introduced "too late." "The Netherlands must now show that it has become more agile." If immediate action is taken now, all older people could have received a booster shot before the new variant can gain a foothold here, he reasons.
The South African authorities expressed concerns about the new coronavirus variant on Thursday. "It is a mutation that is of serious concern," Health Minister Joe Phaala said in a news conference on Thursday. Initial studies show that the variant genetically differs significantly from previous variants, which may have implications for the effectiveness of people's antibodies.
According to the South African authorities, the new variant, known as B.1.1.529, has over 30 mutations in the spike protein - the part of the virus that latches onto human cells. This may make the virus more easily transmissible. It may also have consequences for the effectiveness of vaccines, as most vaccines target the spike protein.
The United Kingdom temporarily banned flights from South Africa in a n attempt to keep the new variant out. Singapore also restricted arrivals from South Africa and surrounding countries.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times.