European planes on the tarmac at Johannesburg airport (Photo: Marriott Protea Hotel O.R Tambo International Airport)

The variant, known by its scientific name B.1.1.529, is expected to be given a Greek alphabet name by the World Health Organization soon. This new version of the virus is considered dangerous because of a very high number of mutations. And therefore a possible ineffectiveness of current vaccines against this variant.

Speaking on the BBC, Professor Tulio de Oliveira, director of the Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation in South Africa, said that there was an ” unusual constellation of mutations ” and that it was ” very different

” from other variants that have circulated.

As a result, Germany, Italy, Morocco and the UK have already suspended flights from all over southern Africa. The measure concerns not only South Africa but also Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe. The European Union has announced that it should generalize the suspension of flights to all member countries. Probably before the weekend.

principle of maximum precaution

In the wake of this, France decided Friday morning to suspend flights from seven countries in the region: South Africa, but also Lesotho, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini and Zimbabwe. The decision, which comes into force immediately, is scheduled to last for a minimum of 48 hours. It applies regardless of the vaccination status of travellers.

Because of the discovery of a new variant of the coronavirus particularly worrying, the Government makes the choice to suspend for a minimum duration of 48 hours the arrivals coming from the countries of Southern Africa“, indicates the communiqué of Matignon, evoking a ” principle of maximum precaution“.