FTSE 100 plummets

Markets plunge as new Covid variant emerges

Pre-departure Covid tests

Testing will be required

Investor panic began to spread around the world following concern over a possibly vaccine-resistant variant of Covid.

The FTSE 100 plunged 211.37 points (2.89%) to 7,099 at the open with travel and hospitality related stocks leading the retreat. British Airways owner IAG was down 11% and Intercontinental Hotels Group 7% in early trade.

Asian stocks suffered their sharpest drop in three months and oil prices tumbled after the detection of the variant, called Nu, sending investors to seek safety in bonds, the yen and the dollar.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 is off 768 points at 28,731 while in Hong Kong, the Hang Seng is down 565 points at 24,175. Brent crude was trading at $78.89 a barrel, down $2.03.

The new variant has prompted the UK to impose travel restrictions on those arriving from six African states.

Little is known of the B.1.1.529 variant, detected in South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong, though scientists said it has an unusual combination of mutations and may be able to evade immune responses or make it more transmissible. There are questions about the effectiveness of vaccines against it.

Jeffrey Halley, analyst at Oanda in Jakarta, told the Reuters agency: “The one bull in the China shop that could truly derail the global recovery has always been a new strain of COVID-19 that swept the world and caused the reimposition of mass social retractions.

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