UK health secretary Sajid Javid, announced that UK had banned flights to South Africa after authorities revealed they had discovered the B.1.1.529 variant which reportedly has several mutations, adding that the two people who were detected with the new virus variant have been self-isolating.
The UK government said the two cases were linked to southern Africa as it moved to expand the travel ban to four more African countries namely Angola, Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi who were placed on the “red list”.
The British government had already placed six southern African nations on a travel ban on Friday including Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho and Eswatini.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) had moved to designate B.1.1.529 as a “variant of concern” late on Friday.
The UK has been witnessing a steady rise in coronavirus cases over the past months even as it has vaccinated over 80 per cent of its citizens.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had spoken to President Cyril Ramaphosa earlier after Britain decided to block flight from the country as Belgium became the first country in Europe to report the new Omicron variant.
South African minister Phaahla had called the flight ban a “knee-jerk and panic” reaction. After Britain, other European countries including Austria, Italy, France and the Netherlands also imposed flight bans.
The Omicron variant was also discovered in Israel, Hong Kong and Botswana on Friday.