Spain has joined another seven European Union countries that have decided to place restrictions on flights arriving from South Africa and Botswana due to the detection of a new variant of the coronavirus in those territories.
The move was announced on Friday by the health minister, Carolina Darias, who was speaking to state television network TVE. “We will take an agreement to restrict flights from South Africa and Botswana to the next Cabinet meeting, and also for other countries, but in principle it will be for these two,” she said. “We are also going to require not just vaccination [against Covid-19] for [passengers from] these countries, but also an antigen or PCR test.”
The next Cabinet meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, November 30, meaning that the measure could be approved that day.
Spain does not have any direct commercial flights between South Africa or Botswana, but passengers can travel to the country from these countries via connecting flights, cargo planes or private planes.
The new variant is known as B.1.1.529, and was discovered in South Africa. It has also been detected in Botswana, Hong Kong and Israel. It has 30 or so mutations and is highly contagious.
As well as Spain, Germany, Italy, France, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Austria and Croatia are also placing restrictions on flights from the south of Africa. Outside of the EU, the other countries to introduce the measures – affecting South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Botswana – are the United Kingdom, Israel and Singapore.
The World Health Organization is meeting today in order to analyze the new variant. One case of the strain was detected today in Belgium, in a non-vaccinated person who had arrived from abroad. In Spain, no cases have been found so far.