Sajid Javid says there are no British cases of a new variant

sSouth African experts say it will take “weeks and weeks” to know if the most mutated Covid-19 variant ever discovered has the potential to outpace Western vaccines.

Professor Salem Abdulkarim, the former chair of the South African Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19, told The Telegraph that it will take weeks to see if the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines will defend against the new variant B.1.1.529.

The variant is highly contagious, has twice the number of mutations in the delta variant and is currently leading to an explosion of cases in the region around Johannesburg, the commercial capital of South Africa.

Late Thursday night, Britain put six southern African countries – South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia – on a renewed red list and said it would halt flights on Friday until a system for quarantining passengers is in place.

Israel quickly followed suit by suspending all flights to and from South Africa. On Friday, the European Union said it would propose a travel ban from South Africa.

The new species, likely named ‘No’, was first discovered in Botswana, but cases have been detected in Hong Kong. Scientists say this is almost entirely behind the explosion of cases in South Africa’s Gauteng province in the past week.

Peta Thornycroft and Will Brown have More details about this story here

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