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Greece Restricts Travel to Save Christmas from Africa Covid Variant

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Greece seeks to avoid another Christmas lockdown in the face of the threat posed by the new southern Africa variant of the coronavirus. Credit: Greek Reporter

Greece announced on Friday tough measures to keep the country open for this year’s Christmas festivities against the latest Covid-19 variant that was discovered in Southern Africa.

According to the latest measures, foreign travelers coming into Greece from South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Eswatini, and Zambia will have to get special permission from the Greek consulate to enter the country, and they must be fully vaccinated.

Such permission will only be granted if the traveler needs to enter Greece for very serious or urgent reasons.

Those who are able to enter Greece from the region will have to immediately enter a 10-day quarantine, and they must take three PCR tests throughout the process — one before the trip, one when they arrive in Greece, and one after the quarantine is completed.

Greek citizens traveling back to the country from Southern African countries will not need to acquire special permission to re-enter Greece, but they must also enter a 10-day quarantine and complete Covid three tests. They must also be fully vaccinated against the virus.

The EU has already proposed imposing a total travel ban on visitors from the region in order to stop the spread of the variant.

The European Union’s executive body “will propose, in close coordination with member states, to activate the emergency brake to stop air travel from the southern African region,” EU chief Ursula von Der Leyen stated on Twitter.

Germany and Italy joined Britain on Friday in banning most travel from South Africa as governments scramble to prevent the spread of the new variant with its large number of mutations.

Covid variant from Southern Africa may be resistant against vaccine

The new strain of the virus has a different type of spike protein than those seen in other known coronavirus strains and therefore may be less susceptible to the vaccine, since the inoculations are designed to target spike proteins.

The new mutation, known as the B.1.1.529 variant, is believed to be the most evolved strain since the pandemic began in late 2019.

B.1.1.529 had mutated a total of 32 times when it was first discovered in Botswana, a landlocked country in southern Africa. The strain has since been found in neighboring South Africa, with one case in a traveler returning home to Hong Kong after visiting the continent. There are a total of 10 cases that have been confirmed to be from the B.1.1.529 strain.

Although the strain’s spread has been limited, experts around the world are sounding the alarm over the sheer number of mutations in the variant’s spike protein: “the incredibly high amount of spike mutations suggest this could be of real concern,” said virologist Dr. Tom Peacock.

Peacock later tweeted that it “very, very much should be monitored due to that horrific spike profile,” but that this intense evolution may not necessarily mean that the strain is highly transmissible, and it could just amount to an “odd cluster.”

Greece records 6,602 new Covid cases, 86 deaths, 630 people on ventilators

Greece recorded a total of 6,602 cases of Covid-19 on Friday.

The record for the highest number of coronavirus cases recorded in one day in Greece was broken on November 9, when 8,623 cases of Covid-19 were diagnosed.

In the past day, a total of 516,487 coronavirus tests have been administered, including both PCR and rapid tests, bringing the positivity rate in Greece to 1.27%.

A total of 86 people with the virus passed away in the country on Friday alone.

Just 14 of Friday’s cases were identified during routine Covid-19 testing of tourists at the country’s borders.

Currently, there are 630 patients with the coronavirus on ventilators in Greece.

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