European stocks fell sharply early Friday, with heavy losses for travel stocks and energy names after a new potentially highly contagious variant of COVID was detected in South Africa. The Stoxx Europe 600 index /zigman2/quotes/210599654/delayed XX:SXXP +0.71% slid 3.8% to 465, with the German DAX /zigman2/quotes/210597999/delayed DX:DAX +0.75% down 3.5%, the French CAC 40 /zigman2/quotes/210597958/delayed FR:PX1 +0.74% sliding 4.3% and the FTSE 100 index /zigman2/quotes/210598409/delayed UK:UKX +1.02% down 3.4%. The U.K. has announced it will halt travel from South Africa and several other African countries as of Friday. Shares of International Consolidated Airlines /zigman2/quotes/208070069/delayed UK:IAG +0.33% slid 10%, cruise operator Carnival /zigman2/quotes/210414141/delayed UK:CCL +3.96% slumped 16% and Deutsche Lufthansa /zigman2/quotes/205496028/delayed DE:LHA +0.93% dropped 12%. Energy names also weighed heavily as crude fell more than 5% to $73.91 a barrel. BP shares /zigman2/quotes/207305210/composite BP +4.74% /zigman2/quotes/202286639/delayed UK:BP +4.27% fell 8%.