UK May Expand Red Travel List as Labour Wants Gov't 'to Bolster Defences' Due to New COVID Strain
13:11 GMT 27.11.2021 (Updated: 13:12 GMT 27.11.2021)
On Friday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) described the new coronavirus strain as "a variant of concern", calling the virus Omicron, the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reportedly considering putting more countries on Britain's travel ban list in an attempt to halt the spread of a new coronavirus strain
and avoid a fresh lockdown at Christmas.
The Times quoted unnamed aviation sources as saying that there were "serious jitters" in all corners of the industry over the new COVID variant, and that "there is now a massive question mark over Christmas".
"It is clear the red list will expand and that will have a massive knock on", the insiders argued, amid reports that the UK's travel ban will be imposed on Malawi and Mozambique in the immediate future.
On Thursday night, the UK banned flights from six southern African nations, including South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, and Namibia, over the spread of the B.1.1.529 strain of the coronavirus, which was dubbed Omicron by the World Health Organisation.
Separately, government sources were cited by the British media as saying that ministers "want to restrict travel to avoid restrictions at home at all costs", even if it means risking a serious blow to the travel industry.
The claims come as Health Secretary Sajid Javid told reporters that the new COVID strain "may be more transmissible" than the Delta varaint and that "the vaccines that we currently have may be less effective".
27 November 2021, 11:38 GMT
Commenting on growing fears of a second Christmas lockdown, Professor Adam Finn from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, warned Britons to be "ready for the possibility of a change in the [COVID] restrictions".
Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser at the UK Health Security Agency, in turn, told the BBC it was "possible" the new variant had already reached the UK.
She spoke as Labour Shadow Health Minister Alex Norris called on the government to "urgently bolster our defences to keep the virus at bay", dubbing the new variant "a wake-up call" showing that the coronavirus pandemic is not over.
"Vaccination remains our greatest tool in the fight against the pandemic. The government needs to give clarity on the next steps for the booster programme. Fixing sick pay, improving ventilation, and properly using antivirals also remain crucial to ensure we reduce the spread of this deadly disease", Norris stressed.
Apart from the UK, Canada, Israel, the US, and a slew of EU countries have restricted travel from South Africa
and other southern African countries to try to contain the new coronavirus strain.
South Africa's Health Ministry has since hit out at nations' drive to impose new travel restrictions on the region, describing them as "draconian" and as steps that run counter to WHO guidance.
27 November 2021, 10:25 GMT
The UK's health agency warned countries against hastily imposing travel restrictions, insisting that they should take a "risk-based and scientific approach".
The warning followed the WHO identifying the new South African strain as one of concern, as it is reported to carry a high number of mutations — 32 — which possibly makes it more transmissible and dangerous.