Countries bar South African flights over new Covid-19 variant
Johannesburg - At least five countries and airlines, including Germany and Turkey, are reported to have banned flights from South Africa on Monday over the discovery of a new variant of the coronavirus.
South Africa's health department said last week that a new genetic mutation of Covid-19 had been found in the country and may be responsible for a recent surge in infections.
Sudan will ban travellers from South Africa, Britain and the Netherlands from December 23 due to the discovery of a new variant of the coronavirus, the head of the civil aviation authority told Reuters on Monday.
The ban will last three weeks subject to renewal and more countries could be added to the list as the situation develops, Ibrahim Adlan said.
According to AFP, Switzerland on Monday imposed an entry ban on arrivals from Britain and South Africa and ordered retroactive quarantine for all arrivals from the countries since December 14.
"Following the discovery of a new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus in the UK and South Africa, the Federal Council today decided to take steps to prevent the further spread of this new virus strain," it said in a statement.
"All persons who have entered Switzerland from these two countries since December 14 must go into quarantine for 10 days.
"The Federal Council has also introduced a general entry ban from today for all foreign nationals seeking to enter Switzerland from the UK and South Africa. This is intended in particular to stop travel from these countries for tourism purposes."
Following a suspension announced on Sunday, the government said air travel between Switzerland and Britain and South Africa was now prohibited.
"A temporary derogation from the flight ban is being considered for persons resident in the UK or South Africa currently staying in Switzerland so that they may return home" -- and vice versa for Swiss residents," the government said.
"However, it is imperative that such return journeys do not lead to infections."
Germany said it planned to impose restrictions on flights from and to South Africa and Britain, where the new strain has also been identified.
El Salvador on Sunday said it was banning travellers who have been in either country in the last 30 days or whose flights included a layover in them.
Business Insider said that Israel, Turkey, Germany and Saudi Arabia had all also halted air travel to and from South Africa.
Rogan Cowan from Cape Town had been due to fly with his wife to Luxembourg on Boxing Day to begin a new job as an analyst at an asset management firm.
But that plan is now up in the air, Cowan told Reuters as the 27-year-old has not even been able to confirm if his scheduled flight has been cancelled.
"This has thrown us upside down. I'm just trying to figure out what's happening... I haven't even thought about all the knock on effects," Cowan said.
Aviation experts said they expected more airlines and countries to follow suit, at least until more was known.