The World Health Organization on Friday urged countries not to hastily impose travel curbs in view of the new B.1.1.529 variant of Covid-19 that has emerged, Reuters reported.

“At this point, implementing travel measures is being cautioned against,” the World Health Organization’s spokesperson Christian Lindmeier said. “The WHO recommends that countries continue to apply a risk-based and scientific approach when implementing travel measures.”

The B.1.1.529 variant was first detected in South Africa and scientists in the country are working to understand its possible implications. The scientists told reporters that the variant has a “very unusual constellation” of mutations, and that these mutations may help it evade the body’s immune system.

WHO spokesperson Lindmeier said that the global health body had convened an experts’ meeting on Friday to determine whether B.1.1.529 constitutes a variant of concern or variant or interest. He added that it will take a few weeks to understand the impact of the variant, and that researchers are in the process of assessing how transmissible it is, and how it will affect therapeutics and vaccines.

The World Health Organization’s advice against travel curbs came on a day the European Union said that it will propose to stop air travel from the southern African region due to the variant.

Several countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Singapore and Israel, have banned people from southern Africa from travelling to those countries.

India has advised its states and Union Territories to take note of the variant and asked them to ensure rigorous screening of international travellers.

“This variant is reported to have a significantly high number of mutations, and thus, has serious public health implications for the country, in view of recently relaxed visa restrictions and opening up of international travel,” Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said in a letter.

On Thursday, the WHO’s Covid-19 Technical Lead Maria Van Kerkhove said the organisation does not currently have much information about the variant. “What we do know is that this variant has a large number of mutations, and the concern is that when you have so many mutations, it can have an impact on how the virus behaves,” Van Kerkhove said.