UPDATE – Due to a new Covid variant, Spain has decided to follow the recommendations of the European Commission. And consequently, will suspend flights to South Africa and Botswana with effect from Tuesday.
Spain will, therefore, join other EU countries in the suspension of flights to South Africa and Botswana. Other countries include Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. The United Kingdom has also already suspended air connections
EU member states
Speaking at a press conference this afternoon from Aeropuerto de Adolfo Suárez-Madrid Barajas, Health Minister, Carolina Darias, has said Spain will suspend the air connection between South Africa and Bostwana from next Tuesday. She announced, “the Government will bring to the next Council of Ministers an agreement to restrict flights from South Africa and Bostwana, and from other countries as we continue to analyse”.
The decision comes after the announcement by the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, that countries of the bloc are preparing to study the possibility of coordinating the ban on flights to or from the southern African region as a measure of emergency to prevent the spread of a new variant detected in South Africa and which is concerned about its ability to mutate.
She tweeted, “The news about the new COVID variant is very concerning. I have talked to scientists and vaccine manufacturers today. They share the concern. Please get vaccinated as soon as possible, if not done yet. And follow the known rules to protect yourself”.
The news about the new COVID variant is very concerning.
I have talked to scientists and vaccine manufacturers today. They share the concern.
Please get vaccinated as soon as possible, if not done yet.
And follow the known rules to protect yourself. https://t.co/eSKPzr8J5Q
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) November 26, 2021
The new strain has been identified as B.1.1.529 and is of great concern to scientists as it has 32 mutations. This is a high number, and it has been suggested it is transmitted easily and also resistant to vaccines. However, it is still too early to confirm exactly how this new strain will impact us.
As reported by El Pais, variant B.1.1.529 was identified this week by South African scientists following an unusual spike in coronavirus cases in Pretoria and Johannesburg in the middle of this month. As of this Thursday, 77 cases had been detected in South Africa, four in Botswana, one in Hong Kong, the latter of a 36-year-old man who travelled from South Africa, and another in Israel, of a traveller from Malawi.
So far, there are no recorded cases of this variant in Spain. However, Darias has indicated that from a public health point of view, the government intends to require passengers arriving from high-risk countries must be vaccinated and must also provide a negative PCR or antigen test.
With predictions such as this in our earlier article, Spain will not want to risk another outbreak.