Several European and Asian countries have announced banned flights from South Africa Photograph:( AFP )
South Africa said it will engage with British authorities to try to get them to reconsider their decision
South Africa on Friday termed the UK's travel ban from six southern African countries “rushed”, even as several countries, including the 27-member EU, announced similar restrictions.
Britain joined the EU, Israel and other countries to temporarily ban flights from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Eswatini after a new Covid variant the B.1.1.529 was detected in these countries.
Even though only 60 cases have been reported, scientists are concerned by its high number of mutations which could help it evade the body's immune response and make it more transmissible.
"Our immediate concern is the damage that this decision will cause to both the tourism industries and businesses of both countries," South Africa's Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said in a statement.
South Africa will engage with British authorities to try to get them to reconsider their decision, the statement added.
South Africa has requested an urgent sitting of a World Health Organization working group on virus evolution on Friday to discuss the new variant, reported Reuters.
Meanwhile, Australia has said that it will wait for the advisory from the WHO before it decides to close its border for the southern African countries.
Apart from Britain, the European Commission (EC), too, has proposed to suspend air travel from southern Africa amid concerns over the variant.
EC President Ursula Von der Leyen said the proposal could be enacted as soon as Friday night.
According to WHO, the latest variant is the most heavily mutated version discovered so far.
Singapore is also barring arrivals from the region and Japan tightened border controls for those arriving from southern Africa. India is stepping up tests for international arrivals.
(With inputs from agencies)