Israel discovered today that the new botswana Covid variant, which is considered to be one of the most dangerous ever detected, has spread rapidly across four countries.

Israel’s health minister said that the patient was positive for B.1.1.529 when he returned from Malawi. It suggests that it may already be common in Africa. Two other cases are suspected in Israel.

Germany, Italy, and Britain joined Britain today in suspending South Africa travel. Now, in an alarming sign, the European Union proposes to prohibit travel from South Africa as well its neighbors.

South Africa’s infection rate jumped by 93% yesterday due to fears that the strain was driving the increase. Scientists say the strain has spread to nine of South Africa’s provinces. However, there are still high numbers in Johannesburg. 

After two cases were found in Hong Kong, the new one is now the third case outside Africa. One of the cases was in South African traveler who just returned. A second case has now been found at same quarantine hospital. 

The UK responded by suspending all travel from South Africa and Namibia. It will also trace anyone who entered Britain in the past 10 days.

Grant Shapps (Transport Secretary) said that the UK had adopted a safety-first policy and was taking swift action to stop its entry.

Experts advise Britons to be prepared for disruptions during Christmas, as well as the possibility of restrictions being changed. So far, no cases of this nature have been reported in the country. 

The super mutant which has 30 mutations — the most ever and twice as many as delta — caused cases in South Africa to spike 93 per cent in a day.

Infections have mostly been detected in young people and in a glimmer of hope hospitalisations are yet to rise — but admissions are a lagging indicator.

South Africa has detected 77 cases to date, however scientists have warned that it might be spreading to other parts of Southern Africa.

Scientists fear that it could be extremely infectious due to its ‘concerting constellation’ of mutations. This may make it more resistant to vaccines than other varieties. 

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

This graph shows the percentage of South African cases with the B.1.1.529 (blue) or Indian “Delta (red). The chart suggests that Delta’s mutant strain may be outcompeted in this province by the mutant strain.

As governments struggle to stop the spread of Covid mutations, Germany and Italy joined Britain on Friday in banning all travel from South Africa.

As a warning sign, the European Union proposed that travel restrictions be imposed on southern Africa.

Ursula Von der Leyen (EU chief) tweeted, “The executive of the EU will propose, in close cooperation with member states to activate emergency brake to stop aircraft travel from the Southern African region because of the variant B.1.1.529′.”

Spahn announced that Germany’s travel restrictions will impact South Africa, and “probably neighboring countries”, starting Friday night. Only German nationals are allowed to enter.

Even if they have been vaccinated, they must remain in quarantine for at least 14 days. In Britain they must quarantine for 11 days in Government hotels for about £2,800.

Spahn stated that ‘the last thing we need is an introduced variant that causes more problems’, as Germany faces a fourth and fiercer pandemic.

The government of Rome announced Friday that they would prohibit entry to anyone who had been in South Africa or Lesotho in the past two weeks.

Roberto Speranza, Health Minister, said that scientists are currently studying B.1.1.529, and will continue to exercise maximum caution. 

South Africa strongly condemned Britain’s decision.

“While South Africa recognizes all countries’ right to take precautionary steps to protect their citizens,” the UK’s foreign ministry stated in a statement.

UK Health Security Agency scientists — who took over from Public Health England — said it had the ‘worst ever’ combination of mutations.

South African experts said on one part of its spike protein — which the virus uses to invade cells — it had ten mutations. Comparatively, Delta and Beta have three mutations in one location.

Israel will be the first to suspend travel from six Southern African countries following the UK’s lead. There is no plan to temporarily suspend travel from Malawi.

UKHSA scientists call it a “variant under study”. The World Health Organization today will hold an emergency meeting about the mutant strain.

Although there are concerns over this variant, we don’t know much about its virulence or whether it causes more severe illness and death. This information will be revealed by scientists in the next days.

How might this have an impact on vaccines?

Scientists have raised concern that the super Botswana Covid variant may be better able to dodge vaccine-induced immunity than all previous strains — including Delta.

It is described by UK Health Security Agency experts as the “worst” ever. This mutation combines the genetic changes previously discovered on the Beta version, which raised concern last year because it is thought to be more susceptible to vaccination than those found on the more transmissible Alpha variant.

Scientists believe it’s plausible that this mutant variant of the virus is rapidly spreading because people with immunity from previous infections or vaccines are more likely to be infected.

It is now spreading in South Africa. Most South Africans are immune to the infection. 40% have received at least two Covid jabs.

Lab tests, however, have not confirmed that this variant has the ability to evade vaccination-triggered immunity better than the other mutant strains.

Its virulence is unknown. The possibility that someone will die from it is also not known.  

It could trigger an additional lockdown.

At this point, there are no indications that the UK could be locked out again.

Officials have imposed travel restrictions on South Africa and Botswana — where it has been detected — and their neighbours Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini and Zimbabwe. Because of mandatory quarantine, hundreds are being prepared in hotels to suspend flights from these countries towards England.

Experts in the UK say that the decision is prudent and will delay arrival of the mutant strain by several weeks to months. British authorities have not yet seen any cases.

However, Professor Adam Finn (a member of Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) said that it wasn’t yet known if this might affect Christmas.

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.” 

He said, “There are many things happening now to understand it, look for it and trace it. If it’s already there, we can stamp it out.”