EU states begin suspending all travel from UK over new Covid strain

EU states have started suspending all incoming travel from the UK amid mounting concern over a new strain of Covid-19.

Four countries have so far introduced travel bans from Britain following the discovery of a new variant of coronavirus in the UK that is up to 70 per cent more transmissible than the original. 

Austria is the latest to have suspended travel from the UK, announcing the move shortly after Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium made similar decisions. Others, including France and Germany, look poised to follow suit.

Italian foreign minister Luigi di Maio 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 same 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 on Sunday he was issuing the order for 24 hours starting at midnight “out of precaution,” and that he hoped to have more clarity on Tuesday. 

Germany is also said to be considering limiting flights from Britain, with a high-ranking German government official telling the DPA news agency that restrictions on flights from Britain were a “serious option”. 

Ireland’s health minister said there would be an announcement on Sunday on potential restrictions on flight and ferry passengers travelling from Britain to Ireland, while France is said to be discussing a move.

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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