A NEW and alarming variant of Covid-19 from South Africa arrived in Europe on Friday.
Belgium reported a case in a traveller from Turkey and Egypt, which suggests the strain has been transmitted globally from southern Africa – thought to be its point of origin.
The variant, Omicron, is reportedly the most extensively mutated version of Covid-19 to date, which means it could pose a threat to the immunity of vaccinated people.
Scientists have warned that despite travel restrictions imposed on South Africa, it is a matter of time before it reaches Britain.
The government is considering taking further measures to limit the UK’s exposure to the new – potentially vaccine resistant – strain.
It has halted incoming flights from South Africa and from Sunday, those coming from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and a handful of other African countries will have to undergo mandatory hotel quarantine.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said the development was “concerning” as “preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant”.
British Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the new variant “may pose substantial risk to public health”.
However, England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty has said that based on current data, the variant is no more dangerous than the Delta strain.