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Brussels: The European Union said Friday it is planning to stop air travel from southern Africa to counter the spread of a new COVID-19 variant as the 27-nation bloc is battling a massive spike in cases.

"The last thing we need is to bring in a new variant that will cause even more problems," said German Health Minister Jens Spahn.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement that she "proposes, in close coordination with the member states, to activate the emergency brake to stop air travel from the southern African region."

A new coronavirus variant has been detected in South Africa that scientists say is a concern because of its high number of mutations and rapid spread among young people in Gauteng, the country's most populous province.

Germany said von der Leyen's proposal could be enacted as soon as Friday night. Spahn said airlines coming back from South Africa will only be able to transport German citizens home, and travelers will need to go into quarantine for 14 days whether they are vaccinated or not.

Germany has seen new record daily case numbers in recent days and passed the mark of 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 on Thursday.

The WHO says Covid-19 cases in Europe have risen steadily over the past 5 weeks.




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