Israel has banned entry of all foreigners into its country. Japan announced it would bar entry of all foreign visitors. Morocco has banned all incoming flights. Other countries, including the U.S. and European Union members, have moved to prohibit travelers arriving from southern Africa.
They have taken on an ‘act-now-ask-questions-later’ approach as more cases of this new variant have emerged.
“Many of us might think we are done with COVID-19. It’s not done with us,” warned Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization.
Questions are being asked as to the make-up of the new variant: Is it more contagious? Is it likely to cause more serious illness? Can our vaccines stand up to it?
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, said no data as yet suggests the variant causes more serious illness.
So far, doctors in South Africa are reporting patients are suffering mostly mild symptoms, but they warn that it is still early. Also, most of the new cases are in people in their 20s and 30s, who generally do not get as sick from COVID-19 as older patients.
“We’ve seen a sharp increase in cases for the past 10 days. So far they have mostly been very mild cases, with patients having flu-like symptoms: dry coughs, fever, night sweats, a lot of body pains,” said Dr. Unben Pillay, a general practitioner in Gauteng province, where 81% of the new cases have been reported.