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WHO urges restraint on travel bans as alarming new variant is spotted

Nov. 26, 2021
3 min read
WHO urges restraint on travel bans as alarming new variant is spotted
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The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday cautioned countries against immediately imposing travel restrictions in response to news of a new COVID-19 variant, saying there must be a "risk-based and scientific approach."

The warning, reported by Reuters, came as WHO officials met to discuss the new B.1.1.529 variant.

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About 100 instances of the new variant were discovered in South Africa this week, Gauteng province. Four cases were found in foreigners visiting Botswana, while one case each has been reported in Israel and Hong Kong, both in travelers returning from southern Africa.

The U.K. on Thursday banned flights from South Africa and five nearby African countries, including Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Eswatini. Flights will resume after Sunday, but entry will be restricted to legal residents who will have to quarantine.

The European Union said it was looking to similarly restrict travel, while Italy, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Malta and Croatia imposed their own restrictions. Israel banned its citizens from traveling to South Africa, Bahrain said it would ban some travelers, and India, Singapore and Japan said they would enhance restrictions.

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The new variant has caused significant concern among scientists and health officials because it has more than 30 mutations of the spike protein that it uses to invade human cells — about twice the number of the delta variant — which could possibly render vaccines less effective against it. The new variant differs dramatically from the original strain of the virus, which served as the basis for the current vaccines.

Scientists have also cautioned that much is still unknown about the mutations, including the degree to which the variant is more contagious or able to neutralize antibodies, if at all. It is expected to take several weeks for researchers to gather more definitive information.

On Friday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious diseases official at the National Institutes for Health (NIH), said that U.S. health officials were in talks with their South African counterparts.

In an interview with CNN, Fauci suggested that the U.S. does not intend to impose travel restrictions imminently.

"You don't want to say you are going to do it until you have scientific reason to do it."

Featured image by AFP via Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees