Covid: WHO ‘not aware’ of any Nepal variant

Any additions to green list for quarantine-free travel this week likely to be ‘extremely limited’

Conrad Duncan
Thursday 03 June 2021 11:04 BST
Coronavirus in numbers

The World Health Organisation has said it is “not aware” of any new Covid variant detected in Nepal.

The statement, published on Twitter by WHO Nepal, followed a report in The Daily Mail that foreign holidays could be under threat this summer due to government fears about a new Covid variant allegdly having originated in the South Asian landlocked country.

Whitehall sources told the newspaper that any additions to the green list, which allows travellers to return home without self-isolating, will be “extremely limited” amid suggestions that foreign travel could remain severely restricted until August.

Just 12 destinations currently sit on the green list, with Portugal the only mainstream holiday country requiring no quarantine, but there are hopes some popular European holiday islands might be added this week.

Any changes to the green list are expected to take effect from 4am on 10 June, a week from Thursday.

The report came after immunology expert Professor Sir John Bell warned that the UK could be “slammed” by new coronavirus variants unless more is done to help poorer nations vaccinate their populations.

Sir John said that protection against future variants was “not guaranteed forever”, despite vaccines currently being effective against the Delta variant first identified in India.

However, he warned against overreacting every time a new variant emerges, adding that the current figures in the UK “don’t look too intimidating” but they need to “play out for a couple of weeks” before a final decision on lifting restrictions can be made.

“We do need to keep our eye on hospitalisations, serious disease and death, which is really what we're trying to manage,” Sir John told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

“If we scamper down a rabbit hole every time we see a new variant, we're going to spend a long time huddled away, so I think we do need to get a bit of balance in the discussion and keep our eyes on the serious disease that we're trying to prevent.”

The expert added that there would be 10 billion vaccine doses created before Christmas, but many have been pledged to richer countries who have acquired much more than needed for their populations.

Meanwhile, health secretary Matt Hancock said on Wednesday that the government had begun negotiations to secure a “variant vaccine” adapted to tackle the Beta variant first identified in South Africa.

The Beta variant has caused concern among health officials after a study suggested that the original Oxford/AstraZeneca jab was less effective when tested against it.

Mr Hancock told the Jenner Institute in Oxford that “commercial negotiations with AstraZeneca” had started to secure future supplies.

This article was updated on 3 June, following a statement from WHO that it was “not aware” of any new Covid variant being detected in Nepal.

Additional reporting by PA

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