How is the EU reacting?

Thomas Gutschker

Political correspondent for the European Union, NATO and the Benelux countries based in Brussels.

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Timo Kotowski

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The EU states forbid all entries from southern Africa for the time being due to a new Corona variant.

Passengers who are still en route have to go into quarantine.

The states decided on Friday afternoon in an emergency meeting, as announced by the Slovenian Council Presidency.

The ban hits seven countries, including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Mozambique.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had urged appropriate steps.

Take the new mutant B.1.1.529 "very seriously," she said after talking to scientists and vaccine manufacturers.

Protective measures must be taken to gain “time for further vaccinations and refreshments” and to adapt the vaccines. 

There was talk of a very worrying development in the European Commission.

Initial analyzes indicated that the available vaccines against the new, heavily modified mutant were not effective.

Although it is unlikely to be more deadly than the delta variant, everything must now be done to contain the spread and reduce further stress on the health system.

What is the position of the World Health Organization?

It has not yet been finally clarified how dangerous B 1.1.952 can become internationally.

The World Health Organization (WHO) initially spoke out against blanket travel restrictions.

States could also take other measures to contain the spread.

Can you still travel there?

Yes, there is no travel ban.

However, from Saturday onwards, the classification as a virus variant area will mean that the Federal Foreign Office will issue a travel warning.

RKI President Lothar Wieler expressed concern about the virus variant that appeared in South Africa.

"We are actually very worried," he said in Berlin.

To the best of his knowledge, no case has yet been found in Germany.

Belgium reported the first known case in continental Europe on Friday afternoon.

The authorities in South Africa require a negative test, which must not be older than 72 hours, and the completion of a health questionnaire to enter the country.

What should I do when I've just come back from South Africa?

The acting Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) called on those who had already returned on Friday to voluntarily isolate themselves and voluntarily do a PCR test.

How big is the damage to the travel and aviation industries?

Investors on the stock exchanges are concerned.

The shares of aviation and travel companies lost massively in value.

In the German M-Dax index, the shares of Deutsche Lufthansa and the Frankfurt airport group Fraport were the biggest losers.

Investors worried that the new variant could spread and result in further travel restrictions.

Southern Africa, where summer is approaching, is a not insignificant travel destination in European winter.

Other regions such as the Caribbean are traditionally - and this year too - in greater demand.

The share of the travel company TUI also lost more than 9 percent of its value.

The psychological effect of the entry ban from South Africa is also likely to be significant on the markets.

For a long time, no country has been classified as a virus variant area in the list published by the Robert Koch Institute.

That is changing now.

How do airlines react?

Deutsche Lufthansa wanted to leave flights to southern Africa and from there back in the afternoon in the program for the time being.

After the EU ban, however, there was still no new reaction.

From Germany, the group has so far flew 17 times a week from Frankfurt or Munich to South Africa, and there have been nine flights from Switzerland.

There were also five weekly Eurowings Discover flights to neighboring Namibia.

Other airlines, however, suspended their flights before the EU ban.

Who still offered flights to and from South Africa?

Deutsche Lufthansa recently had a monopoly on direct flights between central Europe and southern Africa.

With other airlines only transfer connections were possible.

The vacation airline Condor, which in the past also went to Namibia and South Africa, had decided not to include the destinations in its plan this winter.

At Condor, they focused on the demand for long-distance travel to the Caribbean.

However, even with the falling number of passengers, cargo holds on the lower deck were well filled recently, as companies have goods transported by air due to the capacity bottleneck in sea traffic.