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New COVID variant: Asian and European countries rush to tighten curbs

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A new and possibly vaccine-resistant coronavirus variant was detected in South Africa. Britain temporarily banned flights from the country while Singapore and India announced stricter border controls and more rigorous testing.

New COVID variant: Asian and European countries rush to tighten curbs
Asian and European countries rushed to tighten restrictions on Friday after a new and possibly vaccine-resistant coronavirus variant was detected in South Africa, with Singapore and India announcing stricter border controls and more rigorous testing.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement that she proposes, in close coordination with the member states, to activate the emergency brake to stop air travel from the southern African region.
Britain temporarily banned flights from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Eswatini and asked returning British travellers from those destinations to quarantine.
Singapore swiftly joined Britain, with the health ministry saying it would restrict arrivals from South Africa and countries nearby as a precaution.
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Italy imposed an entry ban on people who have visited a group of southern African states, including South Africa, in the last 14 days.
Berlin will also declare South Africa a virus variant area after the detection of the new variant there, a health ministry source said.
Japan also tightened border controls for visitors from South Africa and five other African countries, the Jiji news service reported. Its foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
After easing some of its travel restrictions earlier this month, India's central government issued an advisory to all states to rigorously test and screen international travellers from South Africa and other "at-risk" countries.
Taiwan said travellers from "high-risk" southern African countries will have to go into government-run quarantine facilities for 14 days.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the country was well prepared for the new variant. Earlier this week, New Zealand said it would reopen its borders to fully vaccinated international travellers from April 30.
Asked whether those plans would have to be delayed due to the new variant, Ardern said the country had "a number of inbuilt measures to act as a layer of protection".
"All of our planning around COVID, we have built into it the possibility of variants in the future," Ardern said in an interview for the upcoming Reuters Next conference.
(With inputs from agency)
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