Today, the travel industry was in despair over the uncertainty caused by super-mutant Botswana variation. The mayor of Cape Town, a tourism-dependent city, slammed the announcement made to the rest of the world. 

Health chiefs in the country hastily called a news conference on Thursday to announce the new B.1.1.529 variant was driving soaring infections – accounting for around 90 percent of all cases in just a matter of weeks. 

The increase has caused an increase in infections. On Thursday, the daily average of infection cases for 7 days was at 1,000. This is a 262 percent higher than the week prior.

Within hours of the announcement, Britain banned South Africa from all air travel. Other countries, such as France, Germany and Israel, have also followed suit. 

Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis lashed South Africa’s Covid experts for sounding the alarm so early, saying that the country’s tourism industry had been dealt a ‘crushing blow.’ 

Travel firms all over the globe are at an important juncture as holiday travelers look ahead to the holidays. The market is already worried about the news.

British Airways shares, German airline Lufthansa, and Airbus aircraft manufacturer were all down around 10% on Friday. 

Travel expert Paul Charles tweeted: ‘The UK Government have again created a pre-Xmas lottery for travellers by saying they will review the red list in three weeks.

“Few people will put their bookings at risk and assume that they will not be able travel to six affected countries during this festive season.” 

Health chiefs in SA hastily called a news conference on Thursday to announce the new B.1.1.529 variant was driving soaring infections - accounting for around 90 percent of all cases in just a matter of weeks. It has caused a surge in infections, with the 7-day average for daily cases standing at 1,000 on Thursday - a 262 per cent increase on the week before.

The new variant of B.1.1.529 was responsible for nearly 90 percent of all infections in South Africa. Health officials called an emergency news conference in order to quickly announce it. There has been a significant increase in the number of infections. The 7-day average for daily incidences was 1,000 as a result. That is 262 percentage more than the week prior.

People lineup to get on the Air France flight to Paris at OR Tambo's airport in Johannesburg, South Africa', Friday

On Friday, people line up to board the Air France flight from Paris to OR Tambo in Johannesburg.

Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis (pictured on September 30) has slammed the government's response to the new Covid variant, saying it will 'crush' the tourism industry

Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis (pictured on September 30) has slammed the government’s response to the new Covid variant, saying it will ‘crush’ the tourism industry

Travel expert Paul Charles tweeted: 'Few will risk their bookings and will now assume they won't be able to travel to the six countries affected during the festive period.'

Paul Charles, a travel expert tweeted that few people will put their reservations at risk and assume they will not be able go to six of the affected countries during this festive season.

The UK has also blocked travel from South Africa to Namibia, Lesotho Botswana Eswatini, Eswatini, and Zimbabwe.

However, no cases have been found in the UK. Anyone who came back from South Africa during the past 10 days is going to be contacted by the UK and requested to undergo a screening. 

Cirium, a travel data company, said that 289 UK flights to South Africa were planned in December. They have a capacity of 79,000 passengers. 

Cape Town Mayor Hill-Lewis told radio station SAfm Sunrise today: ‘If we know we’re going to get punished for detecting new variants, as in the past … then surely, we should know what we’re dealing with before we go and announce it to the world.’  

FTSE slips amid renewed Covid concerns 

Today’s stock market jitters were triggered by the Covid dramatic developments.

More than £65billion was wiped off the value of FTSE 100 companies after the index opened.

This 250-point tumble set it up for the steepest single-day drop in one year.

IAG, which owns British Airways, saw its shares drop more than 21 percent in early trading. This was a major blow to the stock market. EasyJet dropped 16 per cent. 

Europe’s tourism-sensitive stocks, such as Rolls Royce and easyJet, all suffered double-digit losses.

Supermax Malaysia’s rubber glove manufacturer soared by 1500% in the initial wave of the pandemic. It jumped 15%

Germany’s DAX declined by 2.8 percentage points.

The US equity markets were closed for Thanksgiving. 

The 34-year old said, “We are not sure if the variant we have is something to be concerned about.”

“I understand the importance of information being kept secret, but it is important that the government directly contacted our travel market with this news before making public announcements. He also said that it should not have been made public in a manner that causes panic. 

Mr Charles accused ministers of making ‘another knee-jerk decision’.

According to the travel expert, while Government must act quickly on serious threats, they should refrain from issuing blanket measures like flight bans.

‘It would be better to assess travellers based on their individual risk, and ask fully jabbed consumers to test regularly at home rather than force them to pay over £2,000 per person to stay in grim hotel quarantine.

The Government must find economically less damaging ways to handle each scenario.

“Yet, again, we’re now in a situation where the Government knocks consumer confidence using such draconian steps.”

Julia Lo Bue-Said is the chief executive officer of Advantage Travel Partnership. Advantage Travel Partnership is the largest UK independent travel agency company.

“It is important to keep in mind that these individuals who have traveled to these countries are visiting family and friends for the first time since over 2 years. They now must make the difficult decision of returning home.

“Not only is that not possible, but passengers are limited in their ability to return home on time in order to avoid inhumane quarantine at hotels and the hefty bills associated with this.

“Why cannot this be replaced instead with appropriate home testing and self-isolation?”

Ms BueSaid stated that the larger knock-on effect on consumer confidence was ‘deeply concerning’ for the industry. 

Shares in British Airways parent IAG, German carrier Lufthansa and aircraft maker Airbus dropped about 10 per cent on Friday.

British Airways parent IAG and German carrier Lufthansa saw shares drop by around 10 percent on Friday.

Elle added that “we simply cannot run our businesses with such uncertainty hanging over us in the future.”

Abta’s spokeswoman stated that it was difficult for companies who specialize in traveling to south Africa.

Then she continued, “These businesses had not been able to generate any income for nearly two years. Now they are facing a period in which they will be unable trade — just as peak season is beginning.”

“The government should consider providing targeted assistance where necessary precautionary measures, such as those mentioned above, are being taken to protect UK-based travel businesses. This is similar to what they did previously for other parts of the economy.

“It’s also important that the decision be reviewed carefully and that any restrictions are removed promptly when it is clear that there’s no risk to the UK’s vaccination program. 

As countries like Britain follow Britain’s lead, South African tour companies are overwhelmed with cancellations. 

Richard de la Rey from Dark Giraffe Marketing said that this is a knee-jerk reflex but it has such a powerful snowball effect. The company organizes safaris in Mozambique and Tanzania, as well as beach holidays throughout South Africa.

He grunted, “No one knows any information about this variant. They just assume the worst.” 

The World Health Organization cautioned against imposing travel restrictions, saying it would take weeks to understand the implications of the newly discovered strain.

Shelly Cox said that ‘finally, we were beginning the traction of rehabilitation’. She organizes trips for sustainable tourism to Victoria Falls. This is Africa’s top tourist attraction on the border between Zambia (Zimbabwe)

After South Africa was isolated from the rest, most of 2020 saw high-paying tourists return.

South Africa was then removed from the blacklist by countries following the discovery of another variant in December. This was a serious blow since tourism is responsible for three percent the economy, and has provided 700,000 jobs to its citizens before the outbreak.

It was only taken off the UK’s feared coronavirus “red list” in October. Before that, travellers had to be quarantined at a hotel upon their return.

Maxine Mackintosh is a 28 year-old genetics researcher who landed in Johannesburg. Maxine was due to tour South Africa for 10 consecutive days.

Early Friday morning, she had departed the UK and was on her way to London.

We were planning to visit wineries, hike up mountains and go surfing. Mackintosh said, “I feel very frustrated since this is my first time since the pandemic.”

Andre Van Kets (co-founder of Discover Africa Group) said that he had noticed a nice increase in safari operators since October.

This chart shows the proportion of cases that were the B.1.1.529 variant (blue) and Indian 'Delta' variant (red) over time in Guateng province in South Africa, where the virus is most prevalent. It suggests that the mutant strain could outcompete Delta in the province within weeks

The chart below shows how many cases were either the B.1.1.529 or Indian ‘Delta) variants over time in Guateng province, South Africa. This is the area where the virus is the most common. The mutant strain may be able to outcompete Delta within weeks.

He said that booking rates had soared to unprecedented levels compared with the pandemic era, and that they were optimistic. So to see the hand brake suddenly pulled up was very important.

90% of clients come from abroad. Van Kets stated that most of the company’s clients are from the United Kingdom and America, but he was afraid for a White House announcement.

In the meantime, travel agencies were overwhelmed with vacationmakers looking to make changes to their bookings.

Morongoe Khaboko from Corporate Traveller Evolution, Johannesburg, said that cancellations are the most common problem.

She exclaimed, “It’s been an amazing morning.”

Many people feel that South Africa’s blacklisting is unfair. Many people are surprised that South Africa has coronavirus regulations stricter than most Western countries. This includes mandatory face masks for public gatherings and caps at all gatherings.

“I’m a big rugby fan, and see the stadiums filled with over 50,000… But South Africa’s still the problem?” asked de la Rey.

However, vaccine uptake was low with only around 35% of the population having been vaccinated after slow start to the campaign and widespread hesitancy.

According to de la Rey, governments can feel ‘panic’ and “I get it to a degree”, but there must be a better method.

“It seems that we (and the African continent as a whole) are the ones to blame.”

A flight from South Africa to the Netherlands was barred entry into the country today. Passengers are pictured above waiting in their seats

Today, South Africa’s flight to the Netherlands was denied entry. Above, passengers are seen waiting for their flight.

Pictured above are seats on the flight which was refused entry into the Netherlands

Pilots were told they could not enter. The country imposed travel restrictions on flights from South Africa at 12pm

Above is the cockpit as seen on screen (right) and the seats in the plane. At noon, South Africa flights from the Netherlands were denied entry by the Netherlands.

Botswana Covid variant may have emerged in an HIV patient, has twice as many mutations as Delta and could make jabs at least 40% less effective against infection — what we know so far 


The UK is facing fears that a new Covid super-mutant variant has emerged. It was discovered in an HIV patient from Africa. This version, which could lead to jabs being much less effective, may be the one most likely to have arisen.

Scientists think that the mutations are evidence of AIDS-related disease.

This mutation has over 30 variations, making it transmissible to the Delta strain as well as immune-suppressing vaccine-resistant. 

Experts fear the new variant — called B.1.1.529 — may make the vaccines at least 40 per cent less effective, because it is so different from the original strain the vaccines were made to target.

Britons were alerted to the possibility of a Christmas lockdown. One No10 vaccine advisor warned that restrictions could be reimposed and suggested everyone be prepared.

We have everything that we know to date about this variant.

Is there anything so alarming about this variant?

It is said to be the worst variant of the genome they’ve ever seen and experts are concerned by its many mutations.

The variant has more than 30 mutations — the most ever recorded and twice as many as the currently dominant Delta strain. According to one scientist, these mutations have made this variant among the most destructive.

Experts are concerned that the vaccinations could be 40 percent less effective in the best case scenario. The new virus version is more adept at evading the jabs’ protection.

Because so many changes in B.1.1.529 relate to the spike protein of the virus. The immune system recognizes older viruses’ spike proteins when the vaccines are available.

The new spike protein may look different, so the immune system might have trouble recognizing it and fighting it.

There are also mutations which allow the virus to grow faster.

Experts caution that they may not discover how infective the virus really is until after at least two weeks. 

What will it mean for Christmas in the UK

Experts say it could take weeks before they can determine how dangerous the new variant is. It is unclear what additional steps may be required.

The Government has only taken one action to date, adding six more countries to its red list.

Professor Adam Finn is a member the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. He said, however that no new restrictions could be ruled.

According to him, ITV’s Good Morning Britain asked: “On one hand I do not want to cause unnecessary anxiety, but on another hand I believe we should all be prepared for any change in restrictions.”

Which variant has been found so far?

It has been detected in South Africa and Botswana as well as Hong Kong, Israel, and Israel. 

Belgian officials said that two cases have been reported from the country due to the strain.

The majority of cases were found in Gauteng in North East South Africa.

Hong Kong uploaded the first case to an international variant databank. It was then spotted by someone who had traveled from South Africa to find it.

There have not been any cases in the UK. However, scientists don’t sequence all positive Covid samples in the UK. Not everyone who gets the virus will be tested.

It is possible that there are people living with this variant in Britain.

What’s the UK doing to combat this variant?

Six countries were added to the red-list by Health Secretary last night, starting at noon on Friday 26 November.

These countries are red-listed: South Africa Botswana Eswatini Lesotho Namibia Zimbabwe and Botswana. All direct flights between these countries and the UK will be banned.

Anyone arriving in England between midday today and 4am on Sunday from these countries — or who has been in the countries in the 10 previous days — must complete a passenger locator form, quarantine at home and should take a PCR test.

Anybody arriving in these countries after Sunday 4AM must be kept for 10 days at a quarantine hotel. They will also need to take the Covid test within the first day and another one on day 8.

Which mutations can the variant be subject to?

Botswana variant has mutations K417N & E484A, which are very similar to the South African “Beta” variant. These made it easier to avoid vaccinations.

However, it has N440K (on Delta) and S477N (on the New York variant), which also have been linked to antibody escape.

It also contains mutations P681H (rarely seen together) and N679K, which could give it even more resistance to jabs.

N501Y is a mutation that increases the transmissibility of viruses and has been previously observed on Beta, the Kent Alpha’ variant, and Beta.

The mutations that it also contains are Q446S and T478K.

Do I get protection if I use a booster to protect me?

Researchers have said that vaccines could be 40% less effective due to the new strain.

However, they stated that the mutations make it all the more critical to have a booster jab as soon people can be eligible.

The best protection from the latest variant is provided by neutralising antibodies that are activated when vaccines are administered. Experts agree that the greater the number of antibodies, the better.

We will soon learn more about this variant.

Weeks remain before data on the transmissibility of this new variant and its impact on deaths and hospitalisations are available.

South Africa has received help from the UK to collect this information. It is believed that South Africa will be able to learn more about transmissibility by two to three weeks.

It could take them up to six weeks before they learn more about deaths and hospitalisations.

Which variant is it called?

Scientifically, the strain is called B.1.1.529. However, it has yet to be given a name using letters of Greek alphabet.

Alpha, Beta (Delta), Gamma and Delta have so far been officially given a name.

The World Health Organization is holding an emergency meeting today to discuss this variant. They are also expected to name it. The variant could also be known as the “Nu” variant.