The acting Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn announced on Friday morning via Twitter that Germany would declare South Africa a virus variant area. With the entry into force at night, airlines will only be allowed to transport Germans to Germany, and there will also be a 14-day quarantine for everyone, including those who have been vaccinated. According to the industry association DRV, there are currently up to 400 guests with German tour operators in southern Africa.
Experts fear that variant B.1.1.529 could be highly contagious due to an unusually large number of mutations and could also penetrate the protective shield of the vaccines more easily.
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As the ministry further announced, the new classification may also affect neighboring countries of South Africa. The newly discovered virus variant “worries us, so we are acting pro-actively and at an early stage”, explained the managing minister Jens Spahn (CDU). “The last thing we are missing now is a new variant that has been introduced and that causes even more problems.”
Spahn asks travelers from South Africa to be tested with a PCR test. Since the assessment as a virus variant area with the quarantine requirement does not take effect until tonight, he appeals to people who have arrived from South Africa today or a few days ago to be tested voluntarily.
Lufthansa leaves South Africa flights in the program
The Lufthansa Group is still leaving flights to South Africa in the program for the time being. “We are monitoring the situation very closely,” said a Lufthansa spokesman. The core brand Lufthansa currently flies to South Africa 17 times a week, while the Swiss subsidiaries Swiss and Edelweiss offer nine connections. Lufthansa Cargo will also continue to operate cargo flights. The price of Lufthansa shares collapsed on the stock exchange, as severe travel restrictions threaten due to the appearance of new virus variants.
Because of the spread of a new, possibly more dangerous variant of the corona virus, the EU Commission also wants to limit travel from southern Africa to the EU to an absolute minimum.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on Twitter that the Brussels authority will propose to the EU states that they trigger the emergency brake provided for this in order to suspend air traffic. The authenticity of the tweet has been confirmed to the German press agency.
Italy’s Minister of Health Roberto Speranza restricted entry from several South African countries by order. Italian scientists worked to study the variant. In the meantime, according to Speranza, “maximum caution” applies.
Austria also prohibits entry from South Africa and some other African countries. The Ministry of Health announced on Friday. Only Austrians who stayed in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique are still allowed to return to their homeland. But you would have to observe particularly strict quarantine conditions.
The Netherlands and the Czech Republic announced something similar.
Before that, the designated Minister of Transport Wissing was maneuvering
The designated transport minister of the traffic light coalition, Volker Wissing (FDP), had not yet given a clear answer on Friday morning as to how to proceed with the variant.
Wissing answered on Deutschlandfunk first, that the federal states would have to better implement the Infection Protection Act. When asked again whether flights from the affected regions should no longer land in Frankfurt and other large German cities, Wissing replied again that the most important thing was to implement contact restrictions in Germany as soon as possible. In the third attempt, Wissing pointed out that the federal government still in office would have to decide. Finally, he also recommended “measures in air traffic” to the federal government.
Variant could break through the vaccination shield
The Chancellery is also alarmed by the new virus variant. “The scientists are all very alarmed,” said Braun on Friday morning in the ARD morning magazine. Experts fear that variant B.1.1.529 is not only highly contagious due to an unusually large number of mutations, but could also penetrate the protective shield of the vaccines more easily. Braun emphasized that this is why talks with the Robert Koch Institute would also be held.
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The SPD health expert Karl Lauterbach, who is also being traded as a possible new federal health minister, wrote on Twitter: “We have to buy time. Nothing is worse than a new variant in a running wave. ”If preliminary data turn out to be correct,“ travel restrictions must be imposed immediately ”.
The South African Institute for Infectious Diseases NICD announced on Thursday that 22 cases of the new variant B.1.1.529 had been detected in South Africa.
The World Health Organization WHO is already investigating whether B.1.1.529 must be classified as worrying. That said WHO expert Maria van Kerkhove in a briefing. It will also be examined to what extent the variant has consequences for diagnostics, therapies and vaccination campaigns. The WHO is expected to discuss B.1.1.529 in a special session on Friday.
The WHO has several categories for the different corona variants. One of them is the “Variant of Concern” category. One of the “Variants of Concern” is the delta variant of the coronavirus that is currently predominant in Germany. The characteristics of such a variant may include, for example, that it has been proven to increase the transferability of the coronavirus.
Among other things If responded immediately to the new coronavirus variant discovered in South Africa: international travelers from South Africa and other countries should be consistently tested and checked, as the Ministry of Health announced.
In Japan the government decided to tighten border controls for travelers from South Africa and five other African countries, as reported by the Jiji news agency. The background is the new coronavirus variant discovered in South Africa.
Person infected with new variant in Israel
In Israel According to official information, a person was identified who was infected with a new variant of the corona virus that was first discovered in South African countries. The Ministry of Health announced on Friday that two other people are suspected cases who are still waiting for their test results. You are in quarantine. A spokeswoman for the authority to combat corona confirmed that it is variant B.1.1.529, which comes from southern Africa.
The infected person returned to Israel from Malawi, the ministry said. The other two have also returned from abroad. All three people have been vaccinated. Their exact status is currently being checked. Further contacts are also being sought.
Israel imposed immediate travel restrictions for several African countries on Thursday out of concern about the new variant of the corona virus. South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini have been classified as “red countries” after a special consultation, said the office of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
the British government restricts air traffic from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Eswatini and Namibia because of the new virus variant. Health Minister Sajid Javid said that there was a strict hotel quarantine requirement for those arriving.
So far, no cases with the new variant, which is said to have around 30 mutations, have been found in the UK. But according to the PA news agency, 500 to 700 people from South Africa alone arrive in the country every day. Lufthansa and Condor currently operate direct flights to Germany. (with agencies)
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Federal government restricts air traffic due to Corona variant