The Home Secretary is to probe claims made by a passenger who said she walked through Heathrow unchecked after arriving from South Africa.
Sharon Feinstein, who lives in Islington, north London, claims she walked through the terminal following a trip to Johannesburg, where the mutant strain is rife.
Ms Feinstein landed yesterday after visiting her mother, and had documents to prove she’d had a negative test result – but claims she was ushered through passport control.
Matt Hancock told the Commons today that Priti Patel ‘is looking into this individual case’.
This comes as it emerged travellers who lie about whether they have been to mutant coronavirus hotspots face up to ten years in prison, under a brutal crackdown unveiled by Matt Hancock today.
In more coronavirus news today, it emerged:
- Matt Hancock says over-70s no longer need to wait for Covid vaccine invite from the NHS and they can book their own jabs online;
- Covid deaths hit a six-week low as UK records 333 more victims and 14,104 infections on Monday;
- Unions push back at plan to extend school summer term by two weeks as Boris Johnson vows to go ‘flat out’ to help children catch up after Covid;
- Coronavirus patients treated with a experimental hepatitis drug were four times more likely to have cleared the infection within seven days, study finds;
- An extra 10,000 people will be tested for Covid in Manchester after four cases of new Kent strain are found in the city;
- Boris Johnson refuses to rule out making lockdown longer if South African variant continues to spread.
Sharon Feinstein, from Islington, north London, claims she walked through Heathrow following a trip to Johannesburg
All international arrivals into the UK will be forced to take two tests as the government is set to implement stricter measures to stop new strains of Covid arriving in the country
Hotel quarantine may leave passengers stranded abroad as airlines warn they could refuse flights to those who have failed to book a room in advance
Airlines fear any lack of rooms under the quarantine hotels scheme could force them to leave travellers stuck abroad.
It is understood ministers are considering adding a section to passenger locator forms, which all must fill out before departure. It could ask them if they have booked into a quarantine hotel in the UK.
But it is unclear whether carriers will be expected to bar travellers who answer no, leaving them stranded.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock will announce today that the Government has struck its first deals with hotel chains to accommodate those quarantining.
Ministers are expected to unveil a booking system for travellers this week.
But an aviation source said yesterday: ‘We’re completely in the dark. We don’t know yet whether the Government will want us to deny boarding.’ Airlines are legally required to check passenger locator forms have been completed. They also have to check that a passenger has a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours of travel.
Ministers have been accused of being too slow to bring in quarantine hotels. The policy was announced in the Commons on January 27 but does not come into force until Monday.
Under the rules, hotels will have to provide three meals a day for guests for 11 nights. Travellers will be tested twice, on the second and eighth day of their stay.
Security guards will be stationed on each floor and by entrances and exits, with police on standby if passengers try to abscond.
But Heathrow airport has raised concerns about how the new scheme will work at borders.
A spokesman said: ‘Now that the Government has set a date, ministers need to work with industry to establish how this policy will actually be implemented at the border.
‘Our offer to support remains, but time is ticking and this very complex initiative requires airports, airlines and the Government to work closely together for it to be workable.’
Lucy Moreton, professional officer at the Immigration Services Union, which represents border staff, said border guards were yet to receive any fresh guidance about how the policy will work.
Ms Feinstein told the Daily Express: ‘I could have had Covid, they don’t know where I am staying, they didn’t ask.
‘As a country we’re messing up.’
Ms Feinstein said the Covid strain in South Africa was ‘rife’, but travellers were made to have tests after five days and again 14 days after arriving.
She said: ‘Why can a third-world country get it right and we can’t?’
Ms Feinstein, a freelance journalist who is now self-isolating at her home, said it took her 10 minutes to get through airport control.
She told Good Morning Britain today: ‘I was shocked. I fully expected to take around a hour.
‘I had my negative Covid test, I had my passenger locator form, I had various other forms.
‘We were all queuing up, then I was ushered towards the electronic booth.
‘I was literally through there in 10 minutes. Nobody was there. I was looking around for someone to show my test to.’
Yvette Cooper, Labour chairwoman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, said today: ‘Yesterday the Home Secretary told me in Parliament that 100% compliance checks were now taking place at the border.
‘Yet one passenger arriving at Heathrow yesterday from South Africa via Qatar has reported having no checks on her forms or tests and being sent on her way through passport e-gates.’
Responding, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the Commons: ‘The Home Secretary is looking into this individual case and the measures that we announced today further strengthen the enforcement to make sure that the rules that are currently in place are enforced more strongly and indeed that we have brought in a new system of rules to strengthen the safeguards at our border yet further.’
Meanwhile travellers who lie about whether they have been to mutant coronavirus hotspots face up to ten years in prison, it emerged today.
The Health Secretary said he made ‘no apologies’ for incredibly harsh measures, warning that protecting the UK from variant strains that can potentially evade vaccines is ‘mission critical’ – and hinting they might need to be in place until the Autumn.
He revealed the government is creating a new criminal offence of hiding from the authorities that you have visited one of the countries on the UK’s ‘red list’.
The draconian step came as he confirmed that from Monday all arrivals will have to take three coronavirus tests – one pre-departure and two during their isolation period. Those who fail to get the checks could be hit with thousands of pounds in fines.
Mr Hancock also declared that 4,600 rooms have now been secured by the government from 16 hotels so the ‘quarantine hotel’ system can get up and running as planned on Monday, although the Department of Health refused to name them.
All incomers from ‘red list’ countries must stay in the rooms for 10 days, costing £1,750 each.
Arrivals from dozens of high-risk countries on the ‘red list’ will have to test negative 72 hours before travelling, and then be screened again twice, on day two and day eight.
Failure to stick to the hotel quarantine will be punishable with a fine of up to £10,000, Mr Hancock said.
Meanwhile, all other travellers will also have to show a negative result before coming to the UK, and then face two more tests while isolating at home or in other private accommodation.
However, they should be able to use the existing test and release scheme so they can take escape restrictions five days after arrival.
Boris Johnson refuses to rule out making lockdown LONGER if South African variant continues to spread
Boris Johnson yesterday refused to rule out extending lockdown if the South African variant continues to spread amid fears Oxford University’s vaccine may not stop people falling ill with the mutant strain.
An alarming study found the British-made jab had ‘minimal effect’ in preventing mild disease caused by the strain, suggesting vaccinated people may still be able to catch and spread it. One prominent SAGE adviser claimed the finding meant ‘more restrictions might be needed for longer’.
Pressed on whether there may need to be a delay to easing restrictions if the jab is proven to be less effective at reducing transmission of the South African variant, the Prime Minister said vaccines are ‘going to offer a way out’ and ‘remain of massive benefit to our country’ — but failed to dismiss the prospect of a lockdown extension.
During a visit to a coronavirus test manufacturing facility in Derby, he said: ‘We’re very confident in all the vaccines that we’re using. And I think it’s important for people to bear in mind that all of them, we think, are effective in delivering a high degree of protection against serious illness and death, which is the most important thing.’
Top experts — including Oxford academics and the UK’s leading vaccine panel — also believe the jab will protect against severe illness, ultimately easing pressure on the NHS when lockdown restrictions are eventually lifted and saving tens of thousands of lives.
Health minister Edward Argar told the public not to lose sight of the main purpose of jabs – which is to drive down hospital admissions and deaths to manageable levels. His comments echoed those of vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi, who said preventing severe disease was the ‘vitally important’ factor for the roll-out.
Government sources insisted the worrying study — which prompted South Africa to stop dishing out the Oxford jab — had not changed the plan to get schools back from March 8. However, they pointed out the PM had cited the threat of new variants as a factor that will be taken into account when decisions are made on easing lockdown.
So far there have only been 147 confirmed cases of the South African variant in the UK but this is likely to be a vast underestimate because up until last week officials were only analysing 10 per cent of random positive swabs.
Scientists say the true number of cases is likely 10 to 20 times higher than the official count. No10 has deployed extra testing into more than 10 areas of England where the South African strain is thought to be spreading in the community.
It comes as at least ten vaccination centres due to inoculate thousands were shut today as Storm Darcy struck the UK with 50mph winds and a foot of snow turning roads into ‘lethal’ ice rinks. More than 12million Brits have already had their first dose, with the Government on course to hit its ambitious target of vaccinating 15million by February 15.
Mr Hancock said failure to take tests – which must be booked in advance through a government portal – will be punishable with a £1,000 fine on the first occasion, and £2,000 on the second.
And he said people who lie about whether they have been to ‘red list’ countries could be hit with a jail sentence of up to 10 years under a new law.
The maximum punishment puts the offence in a category with some of the most serious, alongside things such as carrying a firearm with intent. Sentences for rape can be shorter than 10 years, although the maximum for that level of crime is life.
The tests required are the ‘gold standard’ PCR variety rather than the quicker and cheaper lateral flow.
Travellers from all countries are already obliged to prove they have tested negative in the previous 72 hours, and isolate for 10 days, but there are concerns about low compliance.
Setting out the new health measures at the border – which will come into force on Monday – Mr Hancock said: ‘The new measures build on the tough action that we’ve already taken.’
He added: ‘Every passenger must demonstrate a negative test result 72 hours before they travel to the UK and every passenger must quarantine for 10 days.
‘Arriving in this country involves a two-week process for all.’
On the 33 red list countries, Mr Hancock continued: ‘But even with these tough measures in place we must strengthen our defences yet further.
‘I appreciate what a significant challenge this is.’
Spelling out the extraordinary new system, Mr Hancock said he made ‘no apologies’ for how tough they are.
‘People who flout these rules are putting us all at risk,’ he said.
‘Passenger carriers will have a duty in law to make sure that passengers have signed up for these new arrangements before they travel, and will be fined if they don’t, and we will be putting in place tough fines for people who don’t comply.
‘This includes a £1,000 penalty for any international arrival who fails to take a mandatory test, a £2,000 penalty for any international arrival who fails to take the second mandatory test, as well as automatically extending their quarantine period to 14 days, and a £5,000 fixed penalty notice – rising to £10,000 – for arrivals who fail to quarantine in a designated hotel.’
He added: ‘Anyone who lies on the passenger locator form and tries to conceal that they’ve been in a country on the red list in the 10 days before arrival here will face a prison sentence of up to 10 years.’
Mr Hancock said the measures will be put into law this week and more resources will be available to enforce them, adding: ‘I make no apologies for the strength of these measures because we’re dealing with one of the strongest threats to our public health that we’ve faced as a nation.’
Mr Hancock said: ‘From Monday, all international arrivals, whether under home quarantine or hotel quarantine, will be required by law to take further PCR tests on day two and day eight of that quarantine.
‘Passengers will have to book these tests through our online booking portal before they travel. Anyone planning to travel to the UK from Monday needs to book these tests and the online portal will go live on Thursday.
‘If either of these post-arrival tests comes back positive, they’ll have to quarantine for a further 10 days from the date of the test and will of course be offered any NHS treatment that’s necessary.
‘Any positive test will automatically undergo genomic sequencing to confirm whether they have a variant of concern.’
Mr Hancock said responding to new variants is ‘mission critical’.
He told the Commons: ‘Coronavirus, just like flu and all other viruses, mutates over time and so responding to new variants as soon as they arise is mission critical to protect ourselves for the long term.’
How will the new border rules work?
Matt Hancock has announced details of the tougher border measures to MPs.
RULES FOR RED LIST TRAVELLERS
People will be required to test negative for coronavirus 72 hours before departure, using a kit that meets UK government standards.
On arrival they will be taken to a ‘quarantine hotel’ for a 10-day stay that will leave them with a £1,750 bill – although the government pays up front.
They will be tested again on day two and day eight of quarantine, again at their own cost.
RULES FOR NON-RED LIST
The same requirement for a negative test result 72 hours before departure applies.
Once in the UK, they must isolate for 10 days at home or in private accommodation, with the authorities able to check that they are obeying the rules.
Tests will be required on day two and day eight of isolation, and must be booked through a government portal in advance of travel. The portal will be launched on Thursday.
The costs are not yet known but PCR tests typically cost around £120 a time.
It is thought many people will opt for the test and release scheme – which means they can escape restrictions after testing negative on day five.
However, Mr Hancock suggested they will still be required to take tests on day two and day eight – meaning they could be screened four times in total.
Outlining the Government’s four-part strategy to do this, Mr Hancock said: ‘First, the lower the case numbers here, the fewer new variants we get – so the work to lower case numbers domestically is crucial.
‘Second, as I set out to the House last week, is enhanced contact tracing, surge testing and genomic sequencing.
‘Third is the work on vaccines to tackle variants as set out yesterday by Professor Van-Tam.
‘And fourth, health protection at the border to increase our security against new variants of concern arriving from abroad.’
Travel from ‘red list’ countries to the UK is already banned for everyone apart from Britons and a few other exceptions.
And Mr Hancock said that those arriving from those 33 countries – and potentially more in future if the roster expands – will now have to quarantine in an assigned hotel room.
He told the Commons: ‘We’re setting up a new system of hotel quarantine for UK and Irish residents who’ve been in red list countries in the last 10 days.
‘In short, this means that any returning residents from these countries will have to quarantine in an assigned hotel room for 10 days from the time of arrival.
‘Before they travel, they’ll have to book through an online platform and pay for a quarantine package costing £1,750 for an individual travelling alone which includes the hotel, transport and testing.
This booking system will go live on Thursday when we’ll also publish the full detailed guidance.
‘Passengers will only be able to enter the UK through a small number of ports that currently account for the vast majority of passenger arrivals.
‘When they arrive, they’ll be escorted to a designated hotel which will be closed to guests who aren’t quarantining, for 10 days or for longer if they test positive for Covid-19 during their stay.
‘We’ve contracted 16 hotels for an initial 4,600 rooms and we will secure more as they are needed.
‘People will need to remain in their rooms and of course will not be allowed to mix with other guests and there will be visible security in place to ensure compliance alongside necessary support, so even as we protect public health we can look after the people in our care.’
A deserted Terminal 5 as the aviation industry continues to be badly hit by the Covid crisis
Vaccinated Brits could be given scannable QR codes that allow them to travel abroad as soon as NEXT MONTH as part of Covid ‘vaccine passport’ schemes funded by the taxpayer
By Connor Boyd, Assistant Health Editor for MailOnline
Vaccinated Britons could get scannable QR codes as soon as next month, allowing them to travel abroad as part of coronavirus ‘vaccine passport’ schemes funded by the taxpayer.
At least eight firms have been awarded Government grants to develop schemes that would allow users to carry digital proof that they have received an approved Covid-19 jab.
The projects, given a total of £450,000 between them, aim to provide a way to get people back to work and reopen international travel without the risk of fuelling the pandemic.
The grants have been dished out by InnovateUK, a non-departmental public agency which claims it ‘operates at arm’s length from the Government’.
Logifect, a Kent firm handed £62,000 in grants, has designed a phone app linking to a digital passport that includes a photo of them. It is due to launch next month, The Telegraph reports.
London-based iProov and Mvine, in Surrey, have been given £75,000 for their joint effort, according to the newspaper. They are developing digital ‘certificates’ that would provide people with confirmation of their vaccinations.
Executives at all three firms have said they plan to pitch their technologies to the Government before the current national lockdown ends.
Number 10 has publicly denied it is going down the route of controversial vaccine passports, which are feared could make voluntary vaccination mandatory by proxy.
Critics also argue it would in effect create an ‘apartheid’ system between those who have the virus and those who do not.
However, sources say ministers are coming round to the idea that some form of system could be useful in the future as a risk-averse way of keeping the economy open.
Vaccinated Britons could be given scannable QR codes that allow them to travel abroad as part of coronavirus ‘vaccine passport’ schemes funded by the taxpayer
At least eight companies have been awarded Government grants to develop schemes that would allow users to carry digital proof that they have received an approved Covid-19 jab. Pictured: Care worker Felicia Melody gets vaccinated with the Oxford-AstraZeneca covid vaccine at the Med Mart pharmacy in Borehamwood today
Another of the recipient projects is led by Enduring Net, which is working on a £49,678 decentralised system that can digitally provide ‘proofs of individuals’ Covid-19 credentials’, which will include proof of vaccination.
EAS Technologies’ project was given £173,876 to develop an accreditation platform that hopes to be used by organisers of the ‘world’s largest sporting organisations, events, and facilities’.
Covid vaccine centre in Hackney has to close early because of ‘really low uptake’
A Covid vaccination centre in London has had to reduce its opening hours because not enough people are coming forward for the jab.
The John Scott inoculation hub in Hackney, East London, claimed ‘really slow patient uptake’ forced it to close at 2pm on three days last week.
The centre, which is open to patients from 40 GP surgeries, had been administering vaccines from 10am until 8pm every day until the sudden drop-off in appointments.
Health chiefs fear vaccine hesitancy among black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) groups is behind the poor uptake in the diverse inner London borough. Around 45 per cent of Hackney’s population is made up of people from BAME backgrounds, predominantly of black African or Caribbean ethnicity.
Numerous surveys have shown minorities – who studies have shown are up to three times as likely to die from Covid – are more reluctant to get the jabs due to a mistrust in the Government.
And a report over the weekend suggested twice as many white over-80s had been for a jab compared to elderly black Britons.
Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said today officials had been too slow to shut down anti-vaxx myths online.
Other vaccine hubs and GP practices have already began jabbing the over-60s after successful roll-outs in their areas. Health officials could move to lower risk groups if uptake remains low in Hackney — but the priority remains the over-70s, NHS staff, care home residents and workers.
NHS City and Hackney clinical commissioning group said staff have been phoning eligible patients who have not turned up to try to convince them.
A short description on the funding page suggests the project will be used for proving staff and contractors at events have been vaccinated, but could also provide a ‘track and trace’ system for those attending the events.
It is believed the projects will look at different areas of society such as healthcare settings and public spaces and how passport schemes could help remove the potential danger of unvaccinated people coming into contact.
The scheme is being considered by many countries, including Cyprus and the Seychelles, who hope their use would open up society for people who have received a jab.
Airline Qantas and over-50s travel company Saga have suggested that people wanting to travel with them in future will have to have taken a Covid-19 vaccine before they embark.
UK ministers have contradicted each other on the issue of vaccine passports since they were touted at the end of 2020.
Cabinet minister Michael Gove has said they are ‘not the plan’, but vaccine tsar Nadhim Zahawi has admitted the Government is ‘looking at the technology’.
However, Mr Zahawi has since said there are ‘absolutely no plans for vaccine passporting’ and said ‘mandating vaccinations is discriminatory and completely wrong’.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock last month also denied plans to implement passporting, telling the Spectator: ‘It’s not an area that we’re looking at.’
Department of Health sources told MailOnline in December the schemes were ‘exploratory work’ and the systems were not being introduced imminently.
‘It is about looking at ways we could use this in future,’ the source added. ‘It is looking at whether it would be possible,’ they said at the time. ‘There are no plans to introduce immunity passports.’
It comes as tens of thousands nurses have yet to receive a Covid jab, despite the Government aiming to have vaccinated all frontline health staff by next week.
Some 15 per cent of nurses across the country have yet to be given a single dose of the coronavirus vaccine, a poll by the Royal College of Nurses found.
And the number of nurses working in care homes and in the community without the vaccine is greater still, with 44 per cent of agency staff and 27 per cent of temporary staff yet to receive a jab.
The survey of 24,370 nurses comes days before the Government’s February 15 target for vaccinating 15million Britons in the first four priority groups, which includes all health and social care staff and over-70s.
RCN chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair told The Guardian that the findings were ‘extremely worrying’.
She said: ‘Our survey suggests many thousands of nursing staff have yet to be given their Covid vaccine less than a week before the government’s deadline.
‘With only days to go, every effort must be made to reach all nursing staff to ensure their protection and that of the patients and vulnerable people they care for.’
The survey found just seven per sent of all nurses have received two doses of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine.
Scaling the 15 per cent of nurses who have yet to have their first dose to the RCN’s 450,000-strong membership would suggest around 75,000 nurses have yet to be vaccinated.
Of that 15 per cent, just under half (45 per cent) of staff had been offered a vaccine but were either waiting for an appointment or had chosen not to take one.
In total, three per cent of all nurses surveyed were hesitant to accept the vaccine — which would account for some 13,500 staff if scaled up to the RCN’s membership.
Which countries are not currently on the red list but have reported cases of the South African variant
Austria, has, according to latest data, recorded 75 cases of the South African variant and 25 of the British variant.
It has recently warned against non-essential travel to its Alpine province of Tyrol because of an outbreak of the so-called South African variant of the coronavirus there, the government said in a statement on Monday.
The numbers for Denmark are less clear. The first case of the South African variant in Denmark was on January 16, but there have been no reports since.
Denmark has recently announced that everyone entering the country through land or ports would be subject to a coronavirus test on arrival.
After the test, the person has to undergo a 10-day quarantine at home.
According to reports in France, 40 South-African variant cases and 299 UK variant cases.
France is said to be tightening rules in a bid to stop the South African and Brazilian variants of Covid-19 taking hold.
Canada first reported the identification of a South African variant six days ago and has today recorded its first case of the Brazilian variant.
Last week, the area of British Columbia reported 10 cases of the U.K. and South African coronavirus variants, bringing the total number to 28 infections.
Yesterday, the first two cases of Brazil and South Africa variants were reported in Toronto.
The South African variant was first detected in Greece at the end of last month.
It was discovered in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city and capital of the region of Macedonia.
Japan detected its first case of the South African variant at the end of December.
The variant was discovered in a woman in her 30s who arrived in Japan on December 16.
Japan has also had cases of the UK variant and subsequently banned travel from Britain.
Kenya identified two cases of the new coronavirus variant at the end of last month.
It was discovered in two men who later left the country, health officials said.
The South African variant of the coronavirus was first detected in Norway on January 4, but there have been no new reports since.
The virus variant from South Africa was detected in one traveler who came to Norway from South Africa.
Sweden recorded its first case of the South African variant on January 3.
A day later it recorded four new cases of strains found in UK and South Africa.
The first case of the South African variant was reported in Switzerland on December 30.
Health officials in the country said two cases had been discovered, along with five cases of the UK variant.
Soon after, officials quarantined two hotels and closed ski schools in St. Moritz.
Australia first reported the presence of the new South African coronavirus variant on December 29.
The woman tested positive when in a quarantine hotel and was later taken to hospital.
The first case of the South African variant was detected Belgium in the West-Flanders region.
According to local reports, the patient died from Covid.
Belgium declared its first major outbreak of the South African variant a week later after 15 people tested positive in Ostend.
The South African variant was first reported in China on January 6 from a throat swab on a patient in Guangdong Provice.
China has also reported a case of the UK variant.
The Caribbean Island is one of the latest places to identify the South African variant.
The variant case was reported on January 27.
Germany recorded its first case of the coronavirus variant on January 12, in a member of a family that returned from a lengthy stay in the country in December.
It has since has since discovered its own mutated form of the virus and has threatened to close its border with Austria due to its outbreak.
Spain detected its first strain of the South African variant on January 28.
A second case was discovered n the northeastern region of Catalonia last week.
Finland confirmed the presence of two new coronavirus variants – one which was first detected in the UK and the other originally found in South Africa – on December 29.
The first South African Covid variant was confirmed in Ghana on January 19.
There is no reported date when the country first discovered the South African variant, though the World Health Organization say it has been discovered there.
Last month, the country reported it had detected two cases of the UK variant.
Ireland first report detection of the South African variant at the start of January.
The cases were in people who had travelled to Ireland from South Africa over the Christmas holidays.
Health bosses said they were able to contain the spread.
There have been 80 cases of the South African COVID-19 variant discovered in Israel, the Health Ministry last week.
One man is said to have been reinfected with the strain, according to local reports.
There is no reported date when the country first discovered the South African variant, though the World Health Organization say it has been discovered there.
The country also reported the presence of the variant first reported in the UK at the end of December.
There is no reported date when the country first discovered the South African variant, though the World Health Organization say it has been discovered there.
The country reported the presence of the UK variant on December 25, on a flight from London.
Three cases of the South African variant were discovered on January 27.
The discovery was made at a school in Arlon.
The French island in the Indian ocean began a three-week full lockdown on Friday.
It has recorded at least 78 cases of the South African variant.
The South African variant was discovered for the first time on January 8.
It was found in one person in the Mid and West Brabant region.
New Zealand first discovered a South African variant when one case emerged on the island.
The patient, a woman, 56, was thought to have contracted illness from a fellow traveller while quarantining at an Auckland hotel.
The country recorded its first case of the South African variant this month.
It was discovered in Hanoi in a South African woman who had travelled to the country in December.
The South Africa variant was discovered in the United States for the first time at the end of last month.
South Carolina officials say two such cases were diagnosed in the state. Both had a history of recent travel, according to reports.