A slew of nations moved to stop air travel from southern Africa on Friday, and stocks plunged in Asia and Europe in reaction to news of a new, potentially more transmissible Covid-19 variant.
“The last thing we need is to bring in a new variant that will cause even more problems,” said German Health Minister Jens Spahn, amid a massive spike in cases in the 27-nation European Union.
The Philippine government, for its part, banned on Friday night travel to and from parts of Africa.
Within a few days of the discovery of the new variant, it has already impacted on a jittery society that is sensitive to bad Covid-19 news, with deaths around the globe standing at well over 5 million.
There are fears that the new variant could be even more contagious than the current predominant one and could bypass the effectiveness of the vaccination campaigns.
“Early indications show this variant may be more transmissable than the delta variant and current vaccines may be less effective against it,” British Health Secretary Sajid Javid told lawmakers. “We must move quickly and at the earliest possible moment,” he said.
Israel, one of the world’s most vaccinated countries, announced Friday that it has detected the country’s first case of the new variant in a traveler who returned from Malawi. The traveler and two other suspected cases have been placed in isolation. It said all three are vaccinated but that it is currently looking into their exact vaccination status.