UK scientists sounded the alarm on Thursday night over the B.1.1.529 variant

UK scientists sounded the alarm on Thursday night over the B.1.1.529 variant (Picture: EPA/Reuters)

South Africa will go back onto England’s red list for international travel, along with five other African countries.

It is due to a new coronavirus variant emerging, which officials said is the ‘worst one we’ve seen so far’.

Flights from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe will be suspended from midday on Friday, Sajid Javid said tonight.

The Health Secretary said the new variant ‘may be more transmissible’ than the Delta strain and added ‘the vaccines that we currently have may be less effective’.

UK scientists sounded the alarm over the B.1.1.529 variant, which has the potential to evade immunity built up by vaccination or prior infection.

While no cases have been found in Britain, officials raised concern over a rapid rise in cases in South Africa.

Anyone who has arrived from the country in the last 10 days will be invited to take a coronavirus test.

There were previously no countries on England’s red list.

The new variant, which could be officially named ‘Nu’ as early as tomorrow, has also been identified in Botswana and Hong Kong.

It carries 32 mutations, many of which suggest it is more resistant to vaccines and highly transmissible.

It has more alterations to its spike protein – a tool that helps a virus enter a cell – than any other variant so far.

Mr Javid said: ‘More data is needed but we’re taking precautions now.

‘From noon tomorrow six African countries will be added to the red list, flights will be temporarily banned, and UK travellers must quarantine.’

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