Global markets fall sharply on new virus variant fears

More than £65bn was wiped off the UK stock market on Friday, reflecting fears that a new coronavirus variant could wreak further havoc on international business and travel.

The FTSE 100 fell more than 3%, or 240 points, as the market opened on Friday morning, following steep drops in global markets.

Shares in major airlines plummeted with IAG, the owner of British Airways, falling more than 21% in early trading, while EasyJet plunged 16%. The UK government said it would add six countries, including South Africa, to the red list, with flights being temporarily banned.

Engine maker Rolls-Royce and oil giants BP and Shell were also among big fallers.

Overnight, Asian markets suffered their sharpest drop in two months after the detection of the possibly vaccine-resistant coronavirus variant.

The variant, first identified in Botswana, has a “very unusual constellation” of mutations that could help it dodge vaccine immunity and natural antibodies, scientists have said.

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