Australia’s border to stay open to South Africa regardless of emergence of latest Covid variant | Australia information

Australia has no plans to limit flights from South Africa, regardless of the emergence of a brand new variant of Covid-19 which has prompted the UK to close its borders to the nation.

Because the World Well being Organisation referred to as an pressing assembly to debate the brand new variant detected in South Africa, Australia’s well being minister, Greg Hunt, stated on Friday that officers had been assessing the risk posed by the pressure and wouldn’t but introduce restrictions on arrivals from southern Africa.

Whereas Australia would “have the ability to act rapidly if there’s recommendation”, Hunt informed media the nation’s chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, had suggested him there was “no foundation for change” in border preparations.

The UK on Friday introduced it could ban flights from southern components of Africa amid concern concerning the rising B.1.1.529 variant, however Hunt stated worldwide well being authorities had been nonetheless gathering details about it.

“The world is studying and looking out [at] the pressure,” he stated. He had been briefed by each Kelly and the secretary of the division of well being, Brendan Murphy, on Friday morning.

“At this stage they’re gathering info [but] we’re versatile and if the medical recommendation is we have to change then we gained’t hesitate,” Hunt stated.

He stated a repatriation flight from South Africa had arrived in Australia final week and the returnees had been in quarantine at Howard Springs within the Northern Territory. He was not conscious of any instances of the brand new pressure being detected in Australia.

It comes as Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19, stated in a question-and-answer livestream on Friday that details about the pressure was nonetheless rising.

“What we do know is that this variant has numerous mutations. And the priority is that when you might have so many mutations, it could have an effect on how the virus behaves,” she stated.

The emergence of a brand new pressure is on no account a primary. One other variant, C.1.2, was additionally detected in South Africa earlier this 12 months, however has not confirmed as infectious because the extra frequent Delta pressure.

Nonetheless, the B.1.1.529 variant has raised considerations within the worldwide group because of the “extraordinarily excessive quantity” of mutations, which some researchers worry might assist the virus evade immunity.

Whether or not or not the pressure is assessed a variant of concern by the WHO, its emergence has drawn renewed consideration to efforts to assist enhance world vaccination charges.

South Africa’s vaccination fee is simply about 24% whereas in neighbouring Botswana, the place the pressure has additionally been detected, just one in 5 individuals have been vaccinated.

Prof Catherine Bennett, an epidemiologist from the College of Deakin, stated the remainder of the world wanted to do extra to extend world vaccination charges.

“Australia has now contributed 9m doses to companions within the area, some to the Covax program, some to funding, nevertheless it isn’t sufficient,” she stated.

Whereas Australia was “rightly” centered on our area, she stated, low charges of vaccination throughout the globe remained a considerable drawback.

“Vaccination charges like in Botswana actually does go away you susceptible,” Bennett stated.

“It doesn’t need to be a super-infectious pressure of the virus, it simply has to get into locations with these low vaccination charges. We don’t know what’s going to occur with this, it would fizzle out and the vaccine may work simply as effectively. But when any of these issues isn’t fairly proper, you might be placing your self able the place the virus may simply make a little bit of a leap in its evolutionary improvement.”

On Friday Hunt defended worldwide efforts for growing nations, saying there had been “terribly excessive” charges of vaccination in a few of these nations.

“Our spare vaccines are being supplied however past that we’re additionally working immediately by means of the Covax program,” he stated.

“South Africa is doing all the things it could to encourage vaccination inside its inhabitants and to proceed to increase its distribution community, however there are completely different challenges in numerous nations.”

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