Posted: Fri 26th Nov 2021

Six African countries added to red list to protect public health as UK designates new variant under investigation

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Friday, Nov 26th, 2021

The variant known as B.1.1.529 has been detected in small numbers in South Africa.

In a “precautionary move” from midday today, Friday 26 November, South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia will be added to the UK’s travel red list

Variant B.1.1.529 has been declared a variant under investigation (VuI) by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

The variant includes a large number of spike protein mutations as well as mutations in other parts of the viral genome.

These are potentially biologically significant mutations which may change the behaviour of the virus with regards to vaccines, treatments and transmissibility. More investigation is required.

No cases have been identified in the UK. We’re taking these precautionary measures to protect public health and the progress we’ve made so far through our successful vaccination programme.

From midday on Friday 26 November, non-UK and Irish residents who have been in these countries in the previous 10 days will be refused entry into England. This does not apply to those who have stayed airside and only transited through any of these countries while changing flights.

UK and Irish residents arriving between midday Friday 26 November and 4am Sunday 28 November from these six countries will be required to self-isolate at home for 10 days. They must take PCR tests on Day 2 and Day 8 post-arrival. These can be NHS PCR tests and passengers should take them even if they have already booked or taken their lateral flow test.

UK and Irish residents arriving from 4am Sunday must isolate in a government-approved facility for 10 days. During their stay, they will be required to take a coronavirus test on day 2 and day 8.

A temporary ban on commercial and private planes travelling from the six countries will also come into force at midday on Friday until 4am Sunday to reduce the risk of importing this new variant under investigation while hotel quarantine is stood up. This excludes cargo and freight without passengers.

The UK government thanks the government of South Africa for its surveillance of this variant and its transparency.

Meanwhile UKHSA continues to monitor the situation closely, in partnership with scientific and public health organisations across the world, and we will offer to work collaboratively with the 6 countries that have been currently placed on the UK red list to understand the virus and possible mitigations.

Dr Jenny Harries, UKHSA Chief Executive, said:

Scientists at UKHSA are in constant close collaboration with colleagues around the world to identify and assess variants as soon as they emerge. This is the most significant variant we have encountered to date and urgent research is underway to learn more about its transmissibility, severity and vaccine-susceptibility. The results of these investigations will determine what public health actions may limit the impact of B.1.1.529.

This is a clear reminder to everyone that this pandemic is not over, and we all have a responsibility to do what we can to limit transmission and reduce the infection rate and prevent the emergence of new variants. This means coming forward for vaccination as soon as possible and following public health advice. Wear a face covering in crowded places where it’s difficult to avoid coming into close contact with others, try to meet people in well-ventilated areas and seek a test immediately if you have symptoms.

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