EU states suspend travel from UK over new Covid strain

Neighbouring countries halt incoming journeys from Britain

May Bulman
Monday 21 December 2020 00:50
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European countries have started suspending all incoming air travel from the UK amid mounting concern over a new strain of Covid-19.

The new variant of coronavirus apparently native to Britain is up to 70 per cent more transmissible than the original. 

Germany, France and Ireland are the latest to have suspended travel, announcing the moves shortly after Austria, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium made similar decisions. Bulgaria has also suspended travel from Britain, Reuters reported on Sunday evening.

France has implemented a full ban on entries, causing chaos for hauliers and other travellers at Folkestone and Dover.

A spokesperson for the German government said on Sunday afternoon that the country was working on a regulation to restrict travel from Britain to protect the country from the new coronavirus variant. It was not immediately clear when or for how long the restrictions would last.

Italian foreign minister Luigi di Maio meanwhile announced on Sunday morning: “As a government we have a duty to protect Italians. For this reason […] we are about to sign the provision to suspend flights with Great Britain. Our priority is to protect Italy and our compatriots.” 

In the early hours of the morning, the Dutch health ministry issued a statement stating that a virus with the variant described in the UK had been identified in the Netherlands in  early December. 

It said that pending further investigation, any introduction of this virus strain from the UK must be “limited as much as possible” by controlling passenger movements from the country - with a flight ban applying until at the earliest 1 January 2021.  

Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo meanwhile said he was issuing the order for 24 hours starting at midnight "out of precaution," and that he hoped to have more clarity on Tuesday.

Further afield, Saudi Arabia has also reportedly blocked travel from the UK.

It comes after much of the UK was plunged into a lockdown days before Christmas on Saturday when Boris Johnson ordered a strict new lockdown for vast swathes of southeast England and London.

The UK government’s decision to abandon the original five-day relaxation of measures between 23 and 27 December came in light of a new variant of coronavirus that is up to 70 per cent more transmissible than the original.

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