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Germany to ban travel from Britain over COVID-19 variant

A passenger walks past a sign for the coronavirus test center at the Dusseldorf International Airport in  Germany. File Photo by Friedemann Vogel/EPA-EFE/
A passenger walks past a sign for the coronavirus test center at the Dusseldorf International Airport in  Germany. File Photo by Friedemann Vogel/EPA-EFE/

May 22 (UPI) -- Germany will ban travel from Britain starting Saturday due to concerns over a COVID-19 variant.

Germany classified Britain as an "area of variant of concern," and banned travel into the country to prevent virus spread, a post on the German Embassy's website shows.

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"There are local outbreaks occurring again, including cases of more infectious variants such as the Indian variant at present," the post read.

The Embassy noted exceptions to the ban for German citizens and persons remaining in the airport transit area while transferring from one flight to another.

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"We looked at all available data and details," German Ambassador Andreas Michaelis tweeted early Saturday. "We did not take this step lightly.

Since March 30, all plane travelers to Germany have had to present a negative COVID-19 test that was taken up to 48 hours prior to departure. Starting on Sunday, anyone arriving in Germany will also have to show a negative COVID-19 test upon entry and must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

The B.1.617 variant accounts for 80% of COVID-19 cases in India and up to 20% of infections in Britain, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health professor David Peters said during a call with reporters Thursday.

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The World Health Organization has called it a "variant of concern" since it may be more transmissible and resistant to vaccines, EuroNews reported. COVID-19 infections and death have surged in India, and the variant has spread to more than 50 countries since It was first discovered in India in October.

Britain has more than 4.4 million COVID-19 cases and the most COVID-19 deaths in Europe at 127,978 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University global tracker of cases and deaths.

Germany has 3.6 million cases and 87,320 deaths from COVID-19, the same tracker shows.

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India has the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases worldwide at more than 26 million cases, trailing the United States, which has more than 33 million cases, the tracker shows. India has the third-highest number of deaths at 295,525, trailing Brazil with 446,309, and the United States with 589,244.

In India, weakened immunity from COVID-19 has also made people more susceptible to a rare and potentially deadly infection called black fungus, along with other underlying conditions, especially diabetes, CNN reported.

Thousands of black fungus cases have been reported across India, hundreds have been hospitalized from the fungal infection and at least 90 have died, according to CNN.

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A set of micro-organisms known as mucormycetes in soil or compost cause Mucormycosis, also called black fungus, and while the immune system would normally fend off the fungal infection, drugs taken for treatment of COVID-19 patients, such as dexamethasone, could suppress the immune system, the Indian Health Ministry said in a statement.

"Due to these factors, COVID-19 patients face a renewed risk of failing the battle against attacks mounted by mucormycetes," the statement said. "Mucormycosis begins to manifest as skin infection in the air pockets located behind our forehead, nose, cheekbones, and in between the eyes and teeth. It then spreads to eyes, lungs and can even spread to the brain. It leads to blackening or discoloration over the nose, blurred or double vision, chest pain, breathing difficulties and coughing of blood."

The second wave of coronavirus has also spread to India's neighbor, Nepal, where 77 Sherpas, Nepal natives who usually work to support their families as guides, porters, cooks and cleaners for Mount Everest tour groups, have tested positive for COVID-19, The Telegraph reported. The Nepali Sherpas had to isolate in their tents at the Everest Base Camp after developing COVID-19 symptoms.

Similar to India, people have died while waiting to receive oxygen due to nationwide oxygen shortage, according to The Telegraph.

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Nepal has over half a million cases of COVID-19 and 6,153 deaths since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins global tracker.

Worldwide, COVID-19 has infected over 166 million people and killed over 3 million people.

Scenes from COVID-19 surge in India

Homeless and migrant laborers affected by the COVID-19 lockdown queue up to receive free cooked food distributed by Sikh volunteers in New Delhi, India, on May 18, 2021. Photo by Abhishek/UPI | License Photo

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