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Turkey bans travel to 5 countries in Africa due to new coronavirus strain

The new variant of the coronavirus, called Omicron, worries the WHO because it’s 500% more contagious and maybe resistant to vaccines.

Turkey announced the ban on travel and on the arrival of travellers from 5 countries in Africa due to the new B.1.1.529 coronavirus strain, recently called “Omicron”, which has been identified by scientists in South Africa and which has surprised by its unusual number of mutations (up to 50, 30 of them in the protein of the “spike” of the virus), which could make this strain up to 5 times more contagious and resistant to vaccines.

This was announced late on Friday in a public statement by the Turkish Minister of Health, Fahrettin Koca, who explained through his official Twitter account that “the trips from Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe to our country, through all the border crossings by land, air, sea or rail, will not be allowed from tonight”.

The WHO declared this new variant of the coronavirus on Friday as “of concern” while naming it Omicron; several experts have expressed concern about the large number of mutations that this strain presents, something unheard of, especially in the beak or “spike” – with which the virus penetrates cells to infect them – so it could be resistant to vaccines and even have the ability to reinfect people who have passed COVID-19.

It is estimated that Omicron spreads 500% faster than the Delta variant, which originated in India and that due to its high degree of infectivity had become dominant in many countries, including Turkey, where around 30,000 daily infections by SARS-CoV-2 are currently recorded; despite this, the Health Minister ruled out just a few days ago that new lockdowns or restrictions would be imposed to contain the pandemic.

Turkey thus joins other EU countries that have imposed restrictions or banned flights and travels to several countries in Africa due to the new strain of coronavirus, at a time when several European countries have had to return to confinement measures or are considering reintroducing them in the coming weeks, due to the worrying increase in infections. The restrictions on travel from Africa could come late, however: Omicron has already been detected in Israel, Hong Kong and Belgium; in the latter country, in a patient who had previously visited Egypt and Turkey.