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Belgium reports Europe’s first cases of Covid variant

Sajid Javid

Sajid Javid: ‘huge international concern’

Belgium may have recorded the first cases in Europe of the mutant Botswana variant of Covid which has spread to three continents in just two weeks. 

Scientists believe they have detected two cases of the new variant B.1.1.529, which emerged in southern Africa and could be resistant to current vaccines.

The Netherlands was also on alert after passengers arriving this morning on a flight from Johannesburg to Schiphol airport in Amsterdam were told they could not enter the country. 

There were also unconfirmed reports that passengers from Cape Town would be barred from entry as European nations took swift action to halt the spread of the new strain, which has been given the name Omicron.

Travellers arriving in the UK from six African states are now subject to tighter restrictions, though there were reports that travellers arriving from Johannesburg were left to mingle with hundreds of other passengers as they flew into Heathrow on the last flights out of Africa before the red list was re-imposed at midday. 

The Israeli health ministry said today a patient tested positive for B.1.1.529 after returning from Malawi.

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