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Friday, January 21, 2022

A new variant of the virus emerges in Africa, causing concern around the world


BRUSSELS (AP) – The discovery of a new variant of the coronavirus caused a chill across much of the world on Friday as countries rushed to stop air travel, markets plummeted and scientists held emergency meetings to weigh the exact risks that were largely unknown.

Medical experts, including the World Health Organization, warned against any overreaction before the southern African option was better understood. But a troubled world feared the worst nearly two years after COVID-19 emerged and sparked a pandemic that has killed more than 5 million people worldwide.

UK Health Minister Sajid Javid told lawmakers that the newer variant could be more infectious than the delta variant and make vaccines less effective.

“We need to act quickly and as early as possible,” Javid said.

There was no direct indication that this variant causes more severe disease. As with other options, some infected people are asymptomatic, according to South African experts.

While some genetic changes are troubling, it was unclear if the new variant poses a significant public health threat. Some of the previous versions, such as the beta version, initially worried scientists, but did not become widespread.

Several countries canceled flights from southern Africa, and stocks fell in Asia, Europe and the United States. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 1,000 points. The S&P 500 fell 2.3%, its worst day since February. The oil price fell by almost 12%.

“The last thing we need is to introduce a new option that will cause even more problems,” said German Health Minister Jens Spahn amid a huge spike in cases in the 27 European Union countries that have recommended banning flights from southern Africa. nations.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said flights “should be suspended until we have a clear understanding of the danger this new option poses and travelers returning from the region must comply with strict quarantine rules.”

She insisted on extreme caution, warning that “mutations could lead to the emergence and spread of even more variants of the virus, which could spread around the world within a few months.”

Belgium became the first European Union country to announce the case for this option. It was attended by a person who came from abroad.

“This is a suspicious option. We do not know if this is a very dangerous option, ”said Health Minister Frank Vandenbrucke.

In demonstrating how difficult it can be to spread the variant, the traveler returned to Belgium from Egypt and fell ill with mild symptoms on Monday, according to Professor Mark Van Ranst, who works on the research team overseeing COVID-19 in the Belgian government. response.

Israel, one of the most vaccinated countries in the world, announced Friday that it also discovered the country’s first case of the new variant in a traveler returning from Malawi. The traveler and two other suspects were isolated. Israel said all three were vaccinated, but officials are looking into the exact vaccination status of travelers.

After a 10-hour overnight journey, passengers on KLM Flight 598 from Cape Town, South Africa to Amsterdam were detained at the edge of the runway Friday morning at Schiphol Airport for four hours, awaiting special tests due to the new variant. Passengers on the flight from Johannesburg were also isolated and monitored.

“This is ridiculous. If we haven’t caught this horrible bugger before, we will catch him now,” said passenger Francesca Medici, an art consultant from Rome, who was on the flight.

Some experts said the emergence of this option illustrates how the accumulation of vaccines in wealthy countries threatens to prolong the pandemic.

Less than 6% of people in Africa have been fully immunized against COVID-19, and millions of healthcare workers and vulnerable populations have yet to receive a single dose. These conditions can accelerate the spread of the virus, offering more opportunities for it to become a dangerous option.

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“This is one of the consequences of inequality in vaccine deployment and why the seizure of excess vaccines by richer countries will inevitably affect all of us at some point,” said Michael Head, Senior Research Fellow in Global Health at the University of Southampton, UK. … He called on the leaders of the G-20 to “go beyond vague promises and actually deliver on their dose-sharing commitments.”

The new option has heightened investor concerns that months of COVID-19 progress could be reversed.

“Investors are likely to shoot first and then ask questions until more is known,” said Jeffrey Halley of currency broker Oanda.

In a sign of how worried Wall Street is, the so-called fear of the market, known as the VIX, jumped 48% to 26.91. This is the highest since January, before vaccines were widely distributed.

Speaking before the EU announcement, Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO’s head of emergencies, warned against knee reflexes.

“We have seen in the past moments when there was any mention of any variation, when everyone was closing borders and restricting travel. It is very important that we remain open and focused, ”Ryan said.

The African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agreed to and strongly discouraged travel bans to countries reporting the new version. It says past experience has shown that such travel bans “have not been meaningful.”

The UK banned flights from South Africa and five other South African countries at noon Friday and announced that anyone who recently arrived from those countries would be asked to take a coronavirus test.

Germany said its flight ban could go into effect as early as Friday night. Spahn said flights returning from South Africa will only be able to bring home German citizens, and travelers will need to be quarantined for 14 days, whether vaccinated or not.

Germany has recorded a record daily number of cases in recent days and surpassed 100,000 COVID-19 deaths on Thursday.

Italy’s health ministry has announced travel ban measures for anyone who has traveled to seven southern African countries – South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini – in the past 14 days. The Netherlands and the Czech Republic have planned similar measures.

The Japanese government announced that Japanese citizens traveling from Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and Lesotho will be quarantined in government-designated facilities for 10 days and undergo COVID-19 tests on days three, six and ten. … Japan has not yet opened up to foreign citizens.

The South African government said the UK’s decision to temporarily ban South Africans from entering “appears hasty”, citing the fact that WHO has not yet recommended further steps.

The coronavirus evolves as it spreads, and many new variants, including those with potentially dangerous mutations, are often dying out. Scientists are watching for possible changes that could be more hazardous or dangerous, but pinpointing the dangers takes time.

A WHO technical working group was due to meet on Friday to evaluate the new version – currently designated B.1.1.529 – and decide whether to give it a Greek name. It says the number of coronavirus infections jumped 11% over the past week in Europe, the only region in the world where COVID-19 continues to rise.

WHO Regional Director for Europe, Dr Hans Kluge, warned that without urgent action, another 700,000 people could die on the continent by spring.


Associated Press contributors Lorne Cook in Brussels, Colleen Barry in Milan, Pan Pilas in London, Jamie Kiten in Geneva, Mike Corder in The Hague, Dave McHugh in Frankfurt, Carly Petsch in Dakar, Andrew Meldrum in Johannesburg and Frank Jordaens in Berlin contributed into this report.

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
World Nation News is a digital news portal website. Which provides important and latest breaking news updates to our audience in an effective and efficient ways, like world’s top stories, entertainment, sports, technology and much more news.
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