Denmark strictly limits travel from seven African countries due to Covid-19 variant

Denmark will implement restrictions on travel from South Africa and six neighbouring countries, effective midnight on Friday, due to concerns over a new Covid-19 variant.

Passengers queue for Covid-19 testing before traveling on international flights at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, November 26th.
Passengers queue for Covid-19 testing before traveling on international flights at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, November 26th. Photo: Sumaya Hisham/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

Danish authorities confirmed the decision at a briefing on Friday afternoon in response to the emergence of the new variant, B 1.1.529, emerged in South African province Gauteng. 

The variant has an unusually high number of surface protein mutations, eliciting concern from experts. It appears to be spreading rapidly in the South African province and has also been detected in Botswana and Hong Kong.

The United Kingdom placed South Africa on its “red list” of Covid-19 travel restrictions on Friday and other countries have suspended flights. 

It remains unclear at the current time whether the variant is more transmissible than earlier forms of Covid-19.

However, medical director Tyra Krause of the national infectious disease agency State Serum Institute (SSI) said at the briefing there is “concern it can spread and also that vaccines are less effective against it”.

READ ALSO: Danish authorities ‘alert’ over Covid-19 variant

The restrictions mean that Denmark advises against travel to all seven countries: Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini in addition to South Africa.

Travel to Denmark from those countries is only permissible if one of a narrow range of “worthy purpose” criteria is fulfilled. Requirements to test and isolate for 10 days would also then apply to the traveller. A negative test on day four allows the person to leave isolation under Danish rules.

SSI asks anyone in Denmark who has been in any of the relevant countries within the last 10 days to take a test for Covid-19.

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SAS strike affected 380,000 passengers in July

More than 3,700 flights where cancelled and 380,000 passengers where affected by the 15-day strike which hit Scandinavia's SAS airline last month, the company has revealed.

SAS strike affected 380,000 passengers in July

“We sincerely apologize to our customers who were affected by the July strike,” Anko van der Werff, the company’s chief executive, said in a press release. “We are happy operations returned to normality again allowing us to start regaining our customers’ trust.”

According to the release, 1.3 million passengers travelled with the airline in July, which was still a 23 percent increase on the same month last year, when Covid-19 restrictions were still reducing tourism levels.

“In comparison with last month, the total number of passengers decreased with 32 percent and capacity was decreased by 23 percent, which was a result from the 15-day pilot strike,” the release read. 

Pilot unions in Sweden, Denmark and Norway, went on strike for 15 days last month over pay, conditions, and the company’s refusal to rehire pilots laid off during the Covid-19 pandemic on the same terms as before. 

The strike, which cost the airline between €9m and €12m a day, was ended on July 19th, after which it took several days to get flights back to normal

Van der Werff said company said it would now continue putting in place its restructuring plan, SAS FORWARD, and push ahead with restructuring in the US, where the company has filed for Chapter 11. 

He said these would both “accelerate the transformation process that will lead to a financially stable airline, that will be able to deliver the service our customers are expecting”.