Germany, Italy ban travel from SA over new COVID variant
The new rules, starting Friday night, will affect South Africa and 'probably neighbouring nations', Acting Health Minister Jens Spahn said, with only German nationals allowed entry.
BERLIN - Germany and Italy on Friday joined Britain in banning most travel from South Africa as governments scramble to prevent the spread of a new COVID-19 variant with a large number of mutations.
In a sign of the growing alarm, the European Union has separately proposed prohibiting travel from southern Africa.
The EU's executive "will propose, in close coordination with member states, to activate the emergency brake to stop air travel from the southern African region due to the variant of concern B.1.1.529," EU chief Ursula Von der Leyen tweeted Friday.
The @EU_Commission will propose, in close coordination with Member States, to activate the emergency brake to stop air travel from the southern African region due to the variant of concern B.1.1.529.Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) November 26, 2021
• With new COVID variant found in SA, questions raised over vaccine efficacy
• UK to ban travel from SA, five other African countries due to new COVID variant
• Renewed uncertainty about tight lockdowns ahead of Dec due to new variant
• SA records 22 cases from new COVID variant, Phaahla says number steadily rising
• New COVID-19 variant detected in SA - NICD
Germany's new travel restrictions, starting Friday night, will affect South Africa and "probably neighbouring nations", Spahn said, with only German nationals allowed entry.
They must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival even if vaccinated.
"The last thing we need now is an introduced new variant that causes even more problems," Spahn said, with Germany in the grip of a ferocious fourth wave of the pandemic.
Wir bleiben bei der Einreise vorsichtig. Die neu entdeckte Variante #B11529 besorgt uns, daher handeln wir hier pro-aktiv und frhzeitig. Das letzte, was uns jetzt noch fehlt, ist eine eingeschleppte neue Variante, die noch mehr Probleme macht. (2/2)Jens Spahn (@jensspahn) November 26, 2021
In Rome, the government on Friday announced it was banning entry to those who have been in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia or Eswatini in the past fortnight.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza said scientists were studying the new B.1.1.529 variant, "and in the meantime, we will follow the path of maximum caution".
Britain announced that all flights from South Africa and its same neighbours would be prohibited starting 1200 GMT on Friday.
South Africa sharply condemned Britain's decision.
"Whilst South Africa respects the right of all countries to take the necessary precautionary measures to protect their citizens, the UK's decision to temporarily ban South Africans from entering the UK seems to have been rushed as even the World Health Organization is yet to advise on the next steps," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
WATCH: What we know about the new COVID-19 variant in SA