New Covid-19 Variant Detected in South Africa Triggers Global Alarm as WHO Urges Caution

The WHO said it would take weeks to determine how effective vaccines were against the variant, which was first identified this week

PTI

Last Updated: November 26, 2021, 23:01 IST

London

Covid

Global authorities reacted with alarm on Friday to a new coronavirus variant detected in South Africa, with the EU and Britain among those tightening border controls as researchers sought to find out if the mutation was vaccineresistant. Read More

Nov 26, 2021 22:03 IST

Can't Just Cast Doubt on Covid-19 Vaccination Programme, Cannot Afford Price of Laxity: SC

The Supreme Court on Friday said it cannot just cast doubt on the COVID-19 vaccination programme in the country at this crucial stage and cannot afford the price of laxity of not vaccinating people. The top court said lakhs and crores of people have taken their vaccines and even the World Health Organization (WHO) has approved it and the whole world is getting vaccinated.

Nov 26, 2021 19:46 IST

2,37,530 Doses of Needle-free Covid Vaccine ZyCoV-D Released for Use from CDL after Testing

Seven batches comprising 2,37,530 doses of India’s first DNA vaccine ZyCoV-D to fight Covid, manufactured by Cadila Healthcare, have been released after being tested by the Central Drug Laboratory (CDL) in Kasauli. In addition to that, 466 batches of Covaxin, 549 of Covishield, seven of Janssen and 24 batches of Sputnik V have also been released, Dr Arun Bhardwaj, director, CDL, Kasauli, told CNN-News18.

Nov 26, 2021 19:46 IST

2,37,530 Doses of Needle-free Covid Vaccine ZyCoV-D Released for Use from CDL after Testing

Seven batches comprising 2,37,530 doses of India’s first DNA vaccine ZyCoV-D to fight Covid, manufactured by Cadila Healthcare, have been released after being tested by the Central Drug Laboratory (CDL) in Kasauli. In addition to that, 466 batches of Covaxin, 549 of Covishield, seven of Janssen and 24 batches of Sputnik V have also been released, Dr Arun Bhardwaj, director, CDL, Kasauli, told CNN-News18.

Nov 26, 2021 19:19 IST

New Covid Variant Reported in Europe; First Case in Belgium

Belgium said Friday it has detected the first announced case in Europe of the new Covid-19 variant, in an unvaccinated person returning from abroad. “We have a case that is now confirmed of this variant,” B.1.1.529, first detected in southern Africa, Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke told a media conference.

Nov 26, 2021 18:58 IST

Kerala reported 4677 new COVID19 cases, 6632 recoveries and 33 deaths in the last 24 hours

Total recoveries 50,35,384 Death toll 39,125 Active cases 49,459 56,558 samples were tested during the last 24 hours

Nov 26, 2021 18:49 IST

India's Updated List of At-risk Countries Now Includes Hong Kong, Israel

1. Countries in Europe including The United Kingdom 2. South Africa 3. Brazil 4. Bangladesh 5. Botswana 6. China 7. Mauritius 8. New Zealand 9. Zimbabwe 10. Singapore 11. Hong Kong 12. Israel

Nov 26, 2021 18:35 IST

WHO cautions against travel restrictions over new variant

The World Health Organization says it will take “a few weeks” for researchers to understand the impact of the new Covid-19 variant B.1.1.529 detected in South Africa
Nov 26, 2021 18:17 IST

Serum Institute of India re-starts COVAX exports; passes 1billion COVISHIELD dose milestone

Total number of Covishield doses produced now surpasses 1.25bn mark. Resumption of global distribution of Covishield via the COVAX mechanism and to low- and middle-income countries.

Nov 26, 2021 18:05 IST

Singapore to Curb Arrivals from 7 African Countries over New Variant B.1.1.529

Singapore will prohibit arrivals from seven African nations, well being officers stated Friday, after South Africa found a brand new Covid-19 variant with a lot of mutations.

Nov 26, 2021 17:32 IST

India to Push for Patent Waiver for Covid-19 Vaccines at WTO

A year after India and South Africa introduced a proposal to temporarily waive intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines and therapies at the WTO, negotiations are deadlocked in the face of opposition from some developed countries.

Nov 26, 2021 17:14 IST

New Covid Variant May Bypass Existing Immunity Acquired Through Vaccine, Says AIIMS Doctor

It’s a new variant. Wait & watch, we don’t know its overall infectivity but the probability is that it may bypass your existing immunity either acquired through a vaccine or natural infection. If it bypasses, it’ll be a serious issue, says Dr. Sanjay Rai, Centre for Community Medicine, AIIMS

Nov 26, 2021 17:00 IST

France Suspends All Flights from South Africa Over Covid Variant Fears

France suspended all flights coming from southern Africa for 48 hours, French Health Minister Olivier Veran told journalists on Friday in reaction to a new coronavirus variant detected in some African countries.

Nov 26, 2021 16:30 IST

WHO says will take several weeks to understand new variant

Israel has identified a case of a Covid-19 variant with a large number of mutations first detected in South Africa, the health ministry said Friday.”The variant discovered in southern African states has been identified in Israel,” the ministry said, adding it was recorded “in a person who returned from Malawi”. Two more suspected cases were detected in “people returning from abroad”, it said, adding that they had been placed in quarantine.

Nov 26, 2021 16:28 IST

'Heavily Mutated' South African Variant Sparks Fresh Global Curbs. What are the Latest Changes to Travel Rules?

Hours after scientists in South Africa detected a new Covid-19 variant with a large number of mutations, panic gripped countries as they were finally coming out of economic distress triggered due to the pandemic. An expert has described the variant as “the worst one we have seen so far”, and there is concern it has the potential to evade immunity. READ MORE 

Nov 26, 2021 16:19 IST

Can't Cast Doubt on Vaccination: SC on Plea Seeking Probe on Covid Vaccine Deaths

The Supreme Court on Friday said it cannot send a wrong message on the ongoing Covid vaccination and emphasized that the WHO has also spoken in favour of the vaccines. A bench comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and A.S. Bopanna said: “We cannot send a message that there is some problem with the vaccination. The WHO has spoken in favour of vaccines, countries across the world are doing it! We cannot just cast doubt on it.”

Nov 26, 2021 15:59 IST

EU wants to stop flights from southern Africa over variant

The European Union said Friday it is planning to stop air travel from southern Africa to counter the spread of a new COVID-19 variant as the 27-nation bloc is battling a massive spike in cases.

Nov 26, 2021 15:56 IST

Italy Bans Entry to Travellers from South Africa and Neighbouring Cities Over Fear of Covid Variant

Italy says it is banning entry to those who have been in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia or Swaziland in the past fortnight due to fears over a new coronavirus variant

Nov 26, 2021 15:39 IST

Israel Warns of State of Emergency After Reporting First Case of New Covid-19 Variant

Israel’s Ministry of Health has confirmed that the newly discovered variant of coronavirus, i.e., B.1.1.529 has been identified in the country. READ MORE 

Nov 26, 2021 15:28 IST

With Emergence of Covid Variant, Israel on Verge of 'State of Emergency' Says PM

Nov 26, 2021 15:20 IST

Karnataka Reports Two Cluster Bursts of Covid in Educational Institutions

Two cluster outbreaks of Covid have been reported in Karnataka, one from Dharwad and the second from Bengaluru Urban districts. 66 people tested positive on Thursday from SDM College of Medical Sciences and Hospital in Dharwad, following which two hostels were sealed. On Friday, 116 more tested positive.

Global authorities reacted with alarm on Friday to a new coronavirus variant detected in South Africa, with the EU and Britain among those tightening border controls as researchers sought to find out if the mutation was vaccine-resistant.

Hours after Britain https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/britain-says-new-covid-19-variant-is-most-significant-yet-found-2021-11-26 banned flights from South Africa and neighbouring countries and asked travellers returning from there to quarantine, the World Health Organization (WHO) cautioned against hasty travel bans.

The head of the UN World Tourism Organisation called for a quick decision https://www.reuters.com/world/un-tourism-body-chief-calls-swift-uniform-decisions-covid-travel-curbs-2021-11-26.

“It depends on WHO recommendations, but my recommendation will be to take decisions today, not after one week, because if it continues to spread as we are expecting then it will be late and will make no sense to apply restrictions,” organisation chief Zurab Pololikashvili told Reuters.

One South African scientist expert labelled London’s ban a symptom of “vaccine apartheid”, though European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the EU also aimed to halt air travel from the region and several other countries including India, Japan and Israel toughened curbs.

“It is now important that all of us in Europe act very swiftly, decisively and united,” von der Leyen said, calling for EU citizens to get vaccinated and improve their protection with booster jabs. “All air travel to these countries should be suspended until we have a clearer understanding about the danger posed by this new variant.”

In Washington, top U.S. infectious disease official Anthony Fauci said no decision had been made on a possible U.S. travel ban.

There was no indication that the variant was in the United States, and it was unclear whether it was resistant to current vaccines, he told CNN.

The WHO said it would take weeks to determine how effective vaccines were against the variant, which was first identified this week.

The news pummelled global stocks and oil amid fears about what new bans would do to the global travel industry and already shaky economies across southern Africa.

‘MOST SIGNIFICANT VARIANT’

The variant has a spike protein that is dramatically different to the one in the original coronavirus that vaccines are based on, the UK Health Security Agency said, raising fears about how current vaccines will fare.

“As scientists have described, (this is) the most significant variant they’ve encountered to date,” British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News.

In Geneva the WHO – whose experts on Friday discussed the risks that the variant, called B.1.1.529, presents – warned against travel curbs for now.

“At this point, implementing travel measures is being cautioned against,” WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier told a U.N. briefing.

It would take several weeks to determine the variant’s transmissibility and the effectiveness of vaccines, Lindmeier said, noting that 100 sequences of it had been reported so far.

British health minister Sajid Javid said the sequence of the variant was first uploaded by Hong Kong from someone travelling from South Africa.

“It is highly likely that it has now spread to other countries,” Javid told lawmakers.

South African scientists suspect the sudden spike in infections in the country is linked to the new variant, but it is not clear how far it has spread beyond its borders.

South African sport began to shut down on Friday, with the imposition of travel bans forcing international rugby teams and golfers to scramble to leave.

Belgium identified Europe’s first case, adding to those in Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong. Denmark has sequenced all COVID-19 cases and found no sign of the new mutation, Danish health authorities said on Thursday.

Israel imposed a travel ban covering most of Africa.

“We are currently on the verge of a state of emergency https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/israeli-pm-warns-state-emergency-due-new-coronavirus-variant-2021-11-26,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement. “Our main principle is to act fast, strong and now.”

TOO LATE FOR TRAVEL CURBS?

One epidemiologist in Hong Kong said it may be too late to tighten travel curbs.

“Most likely this virus is already in other places. And so if we shut the door now, it’s going to be probably too late,” said Ben Cowling of the University of Hong Kong.

European states had already been expanding booster vaccinations and tightening curbs as the continent battles a fourth COVID-19 wave, with many reporting record daily rises in cases.

Discovery of the new variant comes as Europe and the United States enter winter, with more people gathering indoors in the run-up to Christmas, providing a breeding ground for infection.

Italy imposed an entry ban on people who have visited southern African states in the last 14 days, while France suspended flights from southern Africa and Bahrain and Croatia will ban arrivals from some countries.

India issued an advisory to all states to test and screen international travellers from South Africa and other “at risk” countries, while Japan tightened border controls.

The coronavirus has swept the world in the two years since it was first identified in central China, infecting almost 260 million people and killing 5.4 million.

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