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Britain suspends flights from 6 African countries as it investigates a new variant.

The United Kingdom is temporarily suspending flights from six countries as a new Covid variant with more than 30 mutations spreads in South Africa.

Sajid Javid, the U.K.’s secretary of state for health and social care, made the announcement hours after the World Health Organization gave a briefing on the new variant. The organization called for a special meeting on Friday to further study the variant, which has been detected in small numbers in South Africa.

“More data is needed but we’re taking precautions now,” he said.

In addition to South Africa, the countries of Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Botswana are included in the new restrictions, according to a statement issued by the U.K.’s health, transport and health security agencies.

The WHO is holding a special meeting Friday to discuss what the new variant may mean for vaccines and treatments, officials said Thursday.

The variant, called B.1.1.529, has been detected in South Africa in small numbers, according to the WHO. The variant has spread rapidly through the Gauteng province, which contains the country’s largest city of Johannesburg.

The variant has also been detected in Botswana and Hong Kong, South Africa Minister of Health Joe Phaahla said during the briefing.

South African scientists have detected more than 30 mutations in the new variant, raising concern that it could possibly better evade the antibody protection created by vaccines and prior infections.


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