JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (Reuters) – The British decision to suspend flights from South Africa due to the discovery of a new COVID-19 form “seems to have been rushed,” according to South Africa’s foreign ministry, since the World Health Organization has not to advise on the next measures.
Scientists have only found the B.1.1.529 form in limited quantities in South Africa, Botswana, and Hong Kong so far, but they are concerned about its large number of mutations, which might help it elude the immune system and spread more easily.
Following its discovery, Britain temporarily prohibited flights from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and Eswatini beginning Friday.
“Our immediate concern is the damage that this decision will cause to both the tourism industries and businesses of both countries,” South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said in a statement.
According to the statement, South Africa would engage with British authorities in an attempt to persuade them to reconsider their decision.
South Africa has asked the World Health Organization’s working committee on viral evolution to meet urgently on Friday to address the new variety.
(Reporting by Alexander Winning; Editing by Emma Rumney and Kim Coghill)