Sumary of Scientists call for travel ‘code red’ over Covid variant found in southern Africa:
- Leading scientists have called for immediate “code red” international travel restrictions following reports that a new Covid-19 variant is driving a surge in cases in southern Africa.
- The latest data, presented by South African scientists on Thursday, revealed the variant also appears to be more transmissible and is already present in provinces throughout the country.
- The first detected cases of the variant were collected in Botswana on 11 November and a case has also been found in Hong Kong – a 36-year-old man who tested positive while in quarantine after a trip to South Africa.
- In the past 48 hours, South African scientists reviewed PCR test data from the Gauteng region and discovered the new variant appeared to be behind the increase in cases, having risen to account for around 90% of cases in a matter of weeks.
- At a national level, South Africa’s daily number of infections hit 1,200 on Wednesday, up from 106 earlier in the month.
- Speaking at a hastily called news conference on Thursday, virologist Tulio de Oliveira, said: “We can see very early signs that this lineage has rapidly increased in prevalence in Gauteng and may already be present in most provinces.
- ”Prof Anne von Gottberg, clinical microbiologist and head of respiratory diseases at the National Institute of Communicable Diseases in South Africa, said there were now around 100 cases confirmed through full sequencing of samples, up from just 10 reported yesterday, and signs of community transmission.
- Birney and other UK scientists called for new controls to be brought in immediately, saying that it would be preferable to reverse measures if the variant was found to be less of a concern than feared following further investigation.