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COVID-19

New COVID variant detected in South Africa

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(Last Updated On: November 26, 2021)

Britain on Thursday said it was concerned by a newly identified coronavirus variant spreading in South Africa that might make vaccines less effective and imperil efforts to fight the pandemic. Flora Bradley-Watson reports.

The UK on Thursday banned flights from six southern African countries due to a new coronavirus variant spreading there, Reuters reported.

According to the report the new variant, called B.1.1.529, has alarmed global health officials as it appears to be more transmissible and may evade vaccines.

That’s because its spike protein is dramatically different to the one in the original coronavirus that the COVID-19 vaccines are based on.

Britain’s health secretary said it was important to act fast:

“We will be suspending all flights from six southern African countries and we will adding those countries to the travel red list. Those countries are South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini and Zimbabwe and Botswana. And we will be requiring anyone that arrives from those countries from 4am on Sunday to quarantine in hotels.”

“Our scientists are deeply concerned about this variant. I’m concerned, of course, and that’s one of the reasons we’ve taken this action today.”

Earlier on Thursday, South African scientists said they had detected the new COVID-19 variant in small numbers and were working to understand its potential implications.

The variant has also been found in Botswana and Hong Kong, but the UK Health Security Agency said no cases of it had been detected in Britain, read the report.

The World Health Organization is holding an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss the new variant.

COVID-19

North Korea declares victory over COVID-19

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(Last Updated On: August 11, 2022)

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un declared victory in the battle against COVID-19 on Thursday, with the leader’s sister revealing he had suffered from fever and vowing “deadly retaliation” against South Korea which it blames for causing the outbreak, Reuters reported.

Kim ordered a lifting of maximum anti-epidemic measures imposed in May, adding that North Korea must maintain a “steel-strong anti-epidemic barrier and intensifying the anti-epidemic work until the end of the global health crisis,” according to a report by state news agency KCNA.

North Korea has never confirmed how many people caught COVID-19, apparently lacking testing supplies. It had instead reported daily numbers of fever patients, which totalled some 4.77 million, but has registered no new such cases since July 29.

Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, said the young leader himself had suffered from fever symptoms, according to KCNA, indicating for the first time that he might have been infected with the virus.

“Even though he was seriously ill with a high fever, he could not lie down for a moment thinking about the people he had to take care of until the end in the face of the anti-epidemic war,” she said in remarks at a meeting on Wednesday to review the country’s anti-epidemic responses.

She did not elaborate on Kim’s health, but blamed leaflets from South Korea found near the border for causing the outbreak, Reuters reported.

The World Health Organization has cast doubts on North Korea’s claims, saying in June the situation could be getting worse. 

Pyongyang’s declaration of victory over COVID comes despite no known vaccine programme. Instead, the country says it relied on lockdowns, homegrown medicine treatments, and what Kim called the “advantageous Korean-style socialist system.”

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COVID-19

China closes Potala Palace after COVID-19 reported in Tibet

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(Last Updated On: August 9, 2022)

Chinese authorities have closed Tibet’s famed Potala Palace after a minor outbreak of COVID-19 was reported in the Himalayan region.

The action underscores China’s continued adherence to its “zero-COVID” policy, mandating lockdowns, routine testing, quarantines and travel restrictions, even while most other countries have reopened, AP reported.

A notice on the palace’s Weixin social media site said the palace that was the traditional home of Tibet’s Buddhist leaders would be closed from Tuesday, with a reopening date to be announced later.

Tibet’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism and the Potala is a key draw.

China announced 828 new cases of domestic transmission on Tuesday, 22 of them in Tibet. The majority of those cases showed no symptoms.

Meanwhile, more than 80,000 travelers remain stranded on the southern resort island of Hainan under requirements that they consistently test negative for the virus in coming days before being allowed to leave, AP reported.

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COVID-19

China’s COVID-19 lockdown strands 25,000 tourists in Sanya resort town

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(Last Updated On: August 8, 2022)

China’s popular tourist island of Hainan locked down more areas on Monday as it battles its worst COVID-19 outbreak after recording very few cases over the past two years, compared with many other regions in the country.

About 25,000 tourists were stranded in Sanya, the hardest-hit city in Hainan’s outbreak and the island’s key tourist center, as of Sunday, The National reported.

The island in the South China Sea, which recorded just two local symptomatic COVID cases last year, has reported more than 1,400 infections this month. 

Although that is small by global standards, it is the province’s biggest outbreak since the virus was first reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, The National reported.

The provincial capital city of Haikou, with about 2.9 million residents, and two smaller towns, Ledong and Chengmai, locked down its residents on Monday, according to state media reports.

The lockdowns in several cities on the tropical island dashed hopes for a quick rebound of the country’s ailing aviation sector, which had counted on a summer travel boom to help to trim record losses.

As of Sunday, mainland China had confirmed 231,266 cases with symptoms, including both local patients and symptomatic international travelers.

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