A slew of countries have banned flights from southern Africa after a new coronavirus variant was reported, prompting withdrawal from scheduled sporting fixtures.

South Africa had returned to Britain's 'red list' because of the spread of the new strain of the virus, B.1.1.529.
South Africa had returned to Britain's 'red list' because of the spread of the new strain of the virus, B.1.1.529. (STR / AP)

Sports events in South Africa have been thrown into turmoil following the announcement on travel bans following the discovery of a new strain of coronavirus in the country.

Two rounds of matches in the United Rugby Championship were postponed, golfers playing in a professional tournament withdrew in order to fly home, while a Netherlands cricket tour of South Africa was in jeopardy on Friday.

Two Welsh rugby teams, the Cardiff Blues and the Llanelli Scarlets, announced that they were withdrawing from scheduled fixtures in the United Rugby Championship and were making plans to return home as soon as possible.

The United Rugby Championship (URC) later announced that all four matches scheduled for South Africa on Saturday and Sunday had been postponed, as well as fixtures for the following weekend.

Munster from Ireland and Italian team Zebre had also arrived in South Africa and the URC said arrangements were being made for all four of the visiting teams to return home as soon as possible.

Sixteen British players withdrew after the first round of the Joburg Open golf tournament, the first event of the new DP World Tour, and were expected to fly back to Britain to avoid having to spend time in quarantine.

A spokesman for the Sunshine Tour, which co-sanctions the South African leg of the World Tour, said officials of the two bodies were meeting to discuss the latest developments and expected to issue a statement later on Friday.

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Two further tournaments, the South African Open and the Alfred Dunhill Championships, are scheduled in South Africa over the next two weeks and the spokesman said at this stage the tournaments were due to go ahead.

The Netherlands cricket team played the first of three scheduled one-day internationals against South Africa in Centurion on Friday but a joint statement from the boards of the two countries indicated that the touring team would return home as soon as possible.

But the fate of the tour had not yet been decided because it was "highly unlikely that the visiting team will be able to fly out of South Africa over the weekend".

The statement said a final decision on the remaining matches was expected "in the next 24 to 48 hours".

This opened the possibility that the planned second match, at the same venue on Sunday, might take place.

The third match was scheduled for Johannesburg on Wednesday.

Travel bans

Several European Union countries imposed a travel ban while the British government announced on Thursday that South Africa had returned to the 'red list' because of the spread of the new strain of the virus, B.1.1.529.

Travellers from South Africa, including returning national teams will face a mandatory two-week quarantine period, while flights have been halted.

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