Botswana’s ‘worst of all’ strain has now been discovered in Israel as the strain spreads to four countries within two weeks

The new ‘worst ever’ Botswana COVID variant that has caused international alarm has been discovered in Israel today, as the highly contagious and vaccine-resistant strain spreads to four countries within two weeks.

The Israeli Ministry of Health said the patient tested positive for B.1.1.529 after returning from Malawi, indicating that it is already prevalent in the continent of Africa. There are two suspected cases in Israel.

Germany and Italy joined Britain in suspending travel from South Africa today, and in a sign of growing concern, the European Union is also proposing a travel ban from the country and its neighbours.

South Africa’s infection rate rose by 93 per cent yesterday amid concerns that stress is driving up. It has likely spread to all nine provinces of the country, local scientists say, but there has been no increase in hospitalizations in the epicenter of Johannesburg.

This is the third new case outside Africa, after two cases were detected in Hong Kong. The first was a traveler who had recently returned from South Africa and the second was now spotted in the same quarantine hotel.

In response, the UK has halted all flights from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe from midday and will track everyone who has come to Britain from these countries in the past 10 days.

Experts hope the measure will delay its arrival in the UK, but some warn that Britons now need to prepare themselves for the disruption of Christmas with “the prospect of changing restrictions”. No cases have been detected in the country so far.

The 30-mutant super-mutation – more than ever and twice as much as a delta mutation – is causing cases in South Africa to rise 93 percent a day.

Infections have been detected mostly among young people, and in a glimmer of hope the number of hospitalizations has not yet increased – but admissions are a late indicator.

South Africa has detected 77 cases so far, but its scientists warn that it may have already spread to most of South Africa.

It has a “worrying constellation” of mutations that scientists fear could make it highly contagious and better able to evade vaccine-induced immunity than delta and other variants.

This graph shows the proportion of cases that were the B.1.1.529 (blue) variant and the . variant

This graph shows the proportion of cases that were the B.1.1.529 variant (blue) and the Indian ‘delta’ variant (red) over time in South Africa. It indicates that the mutant strain could outpace Delta in the province within weeks

Germany and Italy on Friday joined Britain in banning most travel from South Africa today as governments scramble to prevent the spread of a new type of Covid virus with a slew of mutations.

In a sign of growing concern, the European Union has separately proposed a travel ban from South Africa.

“The EU Executive Director, in close coordination with member states, will propose the activation of emergency brakes to halt air travel from the South African region due to the variable of concern B.1.1.529,” EU President Ursula von der Leyen wrote on Twitter.

Spahn said the new travel restrictions in Germany, which begin Friday night, will affect South Africa and “probably neighboring countries”, with only Germans allowed in.

They must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival even if they have been vaccinated. In Britain, they must quarantine for 11 days in government hotels for £2,800.

“The last thing we need right now is a new type that has been introduced that is causing more problems,” Spahn said, as Germany falls into the grip of a fierce fourth wave of the pandemic.

In Rome, the government announced on Friday an entry ban for those who had been in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini in the past two weeks.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza said scientists are studying the new variant B.1.1.529, and “in the meantime, we will follow the path of utmost caution.”

South Africa strongly condemned Britain’s decision.

While South Africa respects the right of all countries to take the necessary precautions to protect its citizens, the UK’s decision to temporarily ban South Africans from entering the UK appears to have been rushed so that the World Health Organization (WHO) has not provided advice on the “next steps”, the Foreign Office said in a statement. “.

Scientists from the UK’s Health Security Agency – who took over from Public Health England – said it had a ‘worst of all’ range of mutations.

One part of the spiky protein – which the virus uses to invade cells – has 10 mutations, South African experts said. For comparison, the Beta variant has three while the Delta has two in the same location.

Israel is the first country to follow the UK and has suspended all travel from the six South African countries. There are no plans yet to suspend travel from Malawi.

UKHSA scientists have described it as a “variable under investigation”. Today, the World Health Organization will hold an emergency meeting on the mutant strain.

Although there are concerns about the variant, nothing is known about its virulence and whether those who catch it are more likely to become seriously ill and die. Scientists are working to reveal this information in the coming days.

What is the potential effect on vaccines?

Scientists have raised concerns that a super variant of Botswana’s COVID-19 may be better able to evade vaccine-induced immunity than all previous strains – including Delta.

UK Health Security Agency scientists say this is the worst of all. It combines previously seen mutations in the beta variant, which sparked concern last year as it was thought to be more resistant to the vaccine, and those on the more transmissible alpha strain that was behind the second wave.

Scientists warn that it is ‘reasonable’ for the mutated variant to spread quickly because it is better able to infect people who are immune to either vaccines or previous infections.

In South Africa, where most people are prevalent, they already have immunity to a previous infection. About 40 percent have also received two doses of the Covid vaccine.

But despite the concern, lab tests have yet to confirm that the variant is better able to evade vaccine-induced immunity than other mutant strains.

Very little is known about its virulence and whether a person who picks up the mutant strain is likely to end up in the hospital or die of disease.

Could it lead to another shutdown?

There are no suggestions it could lead to another UK lockdown at this point.

Officials imposed travel restrictions on South Africa, Botswana – where it was discovered – and their neighbors Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini and Zimbabwe. Flights from these countries to England have been suspended until Sunday, as hundreds of hotel rooms are being prepared for mandatory quarantine.

British experts say the move is “wise” and is likely to delay the arrival of the mutated strain in the country by weeks or months. No cases have been detected on British beaches so far.

But Professor Adam Fane, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI), said it was not yet clear if this could affect Christmas.

“On the one hand, I don’t want to create unnecessary anxiety in people, but on the other hand, I think we all need to be prepared for the possibility of changing restrictions,” he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

“There are a number of things that are going on now to understand this, to research it, to track it down, and hopefully eliminate it if it’s really there,” he added.

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