The World Health Organization (WHO) has requested an emergency meeting due to the appearance of a new strain of the coronavirus in Hong Kong, Botswana and South Africa.
In the light of this new variant, called B.1.1.529, some European Union authorities are already evaluating the banning of flights to and from those countries.
The specialists warned that the numerous switches of the variant modify the ability of the virus to infect and spread. The Covid-19 variant presents approximately 32 mutations, a matter of concern for experts since a high evolution in the peak protein suggests new waves of the pandemic, Imperial College London virologist Tom Peacock said.
According to press reports, three cases of the new B.1.1.529 variant have been recorded in Botswana, six in South Africa and one in Hong Kong.
This new variant arises amid the increase in COVID-19 contagions with Europe once again as the epicentre of the pandemic, particularly in Germany, Norway, Austria, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic.
According to the WHO, the increase in positive cases is a consequence of the low acceptance of the vaccine and the decrease in immunity in people vaccinated over a longer period; as well as non-compliance with biosafety measures.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said Friday morning that the EC was proposing to close borders with the countries affected by variant B.1.1.529.
The UK has already taken precautionary measures and travellers from six southern African countries - South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland - have to quarantine to enter the country. Flights with these countries have also been suspended.
B.1.1.529 is a new variant that contains more than thirty mutations and some of them are of concern due to their impact on transmissibility and their potential ability to evade previous immunity or protection.
The variant has been discovered in South Africa, but also detected in Botswana and Hong Kong. Experts are yet to determine whether the so-called B.1.1.529 strain is more transmissible or lethal than previous ones and whether it represents a problem for the effectiveness of vaccines. The WHO plans to release Friday its first evaluations to determine if, like in the case of the Delta strain, it should be added to the list of variants of concern (VOC).