The EU aims to halt flights from southern Africa due to the new Covid-19 variant

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The EU is aiming to halt flights from the South African region due to growing concerns over a new Covid-19 variant discovered in South Africa, EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday. Follow FRANCE 24’s live updates for all the latest developments.

10:48 Paris time

The German Air Force is moving intensive care units as cases increase

The German Air Force will begin assisting in the transfer of intensive care patients on Friday, as the government warned that the situation in the country is more serious than at any point in the pandemic.

Referring to the sharp rise in cases, Health Minister Jens Spahn said that contacts between people must be greatly reduced to slow down the spread of the virus.

“The situation is dramatically more serious, more serious than it has been at any point in the pandemic,” he told reporters in Berlin.

The German news agency dpa reported that a Luftwaffe A310 medevac aircraft will fly seriously ill patients from the southern city of Memmingen to the state of North Rhine-Westphalia on Friday afternoon.

Hospitals in southern and eastern Germany have warned that they are running out of intensive care units due to the large number of seriously ill Covid-19 patients.

The country’s disease control agency said 76,414 newly confirmed cases were reported within the last 24 hours. The Robert Koch Institute, a government agency, said Germany also had 357 new deaths from Covid-19, bringing the total number since the start of the outbreak to 100,476.

10:15 Paris time

The EU is planning an ’emergency brake to stop flights’ from southern Africa

In a statement posted on Twitter on Friday, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said she would “propose, in close coordination with Member States, to activate the emergency brake to stop flights from the South African region”.

A new variant of coronavirus has been discovered in South Africa, as scientists say, is a concern due to its high number of mutations and rapid spread among young people in Gauteng, the country’s most populous province.

The proposal comes as the bloc with 27 nations is fighting a massive increase in cases.

The latest increase hits the EU particularly hard, with governments struggling to tighten restrictions in an effort to curb proliferation. The no-fly motion came in the wake of similar action from Britain on Thursday.

The EU proposal came a day after scientists in South Africa said they had discovered the new B.1.1.529 strain with at least 10 mutations, compared to two for the Delta variant.

10:09 (Paris time)

Israel finds cases of new strain

Israel has identified a case of a Covid-19 variant with a large number of mutations that was first discovered in South Africa, the health ministry said on Friday.

“The variant discovered in South African states has been identified in Israel,” the ministry said, adding that it was registered “in a person returning from Malawi”.

Two more cases were discovered in “people returning from abroad”, it says, adding that they had been quarantined.

The three people were all vaccinated, the health ministry said, without specifying the number of doses or the type of vaccine.

9:38 Paris time

WHO meets on Friday to nominate a new variant

The World Health Organization is convening an expert meeting from Geneva on Friday to assess the new variant, says WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier.

“The WHO is convening a meeting … to better understand the timeline of ongoing investigations and to decide whether this variant should be identified as a variant of interest or a variant of concern,” he said.

Nearly 100 sequences of the variant have been reported, and early analysis shows it has “a large number of mutations” that require further investigation, Lindmeier said.

The WHO has so far no comment on travel restrictions imposed by some authorities on South African countries in connection with the variant, he added.


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