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Europe, Asia tighten borders in fear of new COVID variant B.1.1.529

Countries across Europe and Asia are rushing through new travel restrictions in response to a new COVID variant identified by scientists in South Africa.

The big picture: Israel, Japan, the U.K., France, Germany, Italy and Singapore are moving to restrict entry from countries in the south of Africa, AP reports. Many are also adding quarantines for their own citizens upon return from the region.

  • The U.K. ban targets “South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe,” per the N.Y. Times.
  • Japan has never reopened to foreign travelers, but will now require its own citizens to quarantine upon return from the region, AP reports.

The new variant is called B.1.1.529 until the World Health Organization gives it a Greek letter name.

  • It “likely evolved during a chronic infection of an immuno-compromised person, possibly in an untreated HIV/AIDS patient,” said Francois Balloux, director of the UCL Genetics Institute, Axios’ Noah Bressner reported Thursday.

Go deeper: Axios’ variant tracker

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