Words by ITV News Meridian's Mike Pearse
Travel companies in the South have been badly hit following concerns over the new coronavirus variant Omicron discovered in South Africa.
Tens of millions of pounds has been wiped off the value of the regions leading companies. The World Health Organisation say the new variant is "of concern" amid fears it could spread widely.
It is unclear how effective current vaccines will be in dealing with the new strain. There are also fears new restrictions being introduced in Europe, where cases are rising, will have an impact on travel in the coming weeks hitting the Christmas period, traditionally one of the busiest times to fly.It comes just as the industry was picking up after eighteen months of low passenger numbers and billions of pounds of losses because of the pandemic.
At Gatwick and Heathrow tens of thousands of jobs have been cut.
Today (27 November) flights to a number of South African counties are banned where the new strain has been identified. Heathrow is the worst affected airport.
The UK has temporarily halted flights from six southern African countries: South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Eswatini and Lesotho.
News of the new variant has had a dramatic impact on the share price of travel companies. Worst hit is Carnival who own Southampton based P&O Cruises and Cunard.
The company, based in the USA, saw its shares crash by 15%.Heathrow’s largest airline British Airways also saw its share price go down by almost 15%.Gatwick’s biggest airline EasyJet saw a fall of 11%.
The latest development will be of major concern to an industry still badly hit by the pandemic.