New Covid strain branded ‘variant of concern’ as new strain ‘threatens holidays’

The new Covid strain has been branded a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization.

South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia have been added to the UK’s travel Red List following the emergence of a “super-variant” of Covid-19.

The B.1.1.529 variant, also known as the Omicron or Nu variant after the WHO declared it a "variant of concern", has also been detected in Belgium, Israel, Malawi and Hong Kong.

There is widespread speculation that other countries could be added to the Red List at very short notice.

Travel industry experts fear its emergence could threaten Christmas holidays for Brits.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said that the Government was “continuing to make assessments, including about those countries with strong travel links to South Africa.”

The decision comes as Variant B.1.1.529 is declared a variant under investigation (VuI) by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). The potentially vaccine-resistant strain has twice as many mutations as the currently-dominant Delta strain.

Dr Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College, said the new virus strain’s mutations were “horrific,” and he compared it to the currently-dominant Delta strain that has half as many mutations.

He wrote: “Export to Asia implies this might be more widespread than sequences alone would imply.

"Also the extremely long branch length and incredibly high amount of spike mutations suggest this could be of real concern (predicted escape from most known monoclonal antibodies)."

The case in Belgium was detected in an airline passenger who had been in the country for almost a fortnight after spending time in Egypt, raids the concern that the variant could have been spreading on mainland Europe for some time.

The return of “traffic light” system could threaten any planned winter holidays at very short notice.

Rory Boland, Travel Editor of Which? Magazine told the i: “Travellers must be mindful that with no amber travel list, countries can be added to the red list with no prior warning. This means that unless flights are also cancelled people won’t necessarily be entitled to a refund.

“Anyone planning a trip in the upcoming months should consider booking it as part of a package as that will ensure that they are protected should the restrictions change again.

"Some holiday firms will even let you rebook for free at a later date if your trip can no longer go ahead, so it’s worth paying attention to the small print.”

Source: Read Full Article