The European Union is moving to halt flights from southern Africa due to the coronavirus variant

The European Union is aiming to halt flights from the South African region due to growing concern over a new COVID-19 variant discovered in South Africa, EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday.

“The Commission will propose, in close coordination with Member States, to activate the emergency brake to stop flights from the South African region due to the variant of concern B.1.1.529,” she said in a tweet.

The Executive Commission will recommend that all 27 Member States implement the measure and hope that the European Council will give the green light as soon as possible, said an EU official.

Britain temporarily banned flights from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Eswatini from Friday and asked returning British travelers from these destinations for quarantine.

The variant has a “very unusual constellation” of mutations, which is worrying because they could help it avoid the body’s immune response and make it more transmissible, say South African scientists.

Researchers are still evaluating the new virus variant, first identified this week. Its discovery on Friday hit the financial markets in Asia, where stocks suffered their sharpest fall in three months and oil dipped more than three percent.

Decisions of the European Council representing the Member States do not have to be taken by ministers, but can also be signed by the country’s ambassadors in Brussels.

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