Belgium, Netherlands, Italy suspend UK flights over new strain of COVID-19
Belgium, Netherlands, Italy have banned flights from United Kingdom (UK) over concerns of a new strain of COVID-19 in the country.
Boris Johnson had warned on Saturday that the new strain might be “up to 70 percent more transmissible.”
Netherlands was the first country to ban UK flights after its health authorities confirmed at least one case of the same variant that prompted UK to tighten lockdown rules.
Belgium then followed suit and halted rail connections to UK. Italy later announced their restriction measures on Sunday.
Alexander De Croo, Belgian prime minister, said on Sunday that the order is for 24 hours starting at midnight “out of precaution,” and that train travel from UK would be included in the ban.
The Belgian prime minister said: “There are a great many questions about this new mutation and if it is not already on the mainland”, adding that he hoped to have more clarity by Tuesday.
Meanwhile, in Netherlands, air traffic ban for passengers from UK began on Sunday by 6am and will last until January 1, 2020.
The Dutch ministry of health said: “Any introduction of this virus strain from the United Kingdom should be limited as much as possible by limiting or controlling passenger movements from the United Kingdom”.
“The cabinet is closely monitoring the developments of the COVID-19 virus abroad and is investigating the possibilities for additional measures for other modes of transport.
“In the coming days, it will, in close collaboration with other European Union (EU) member states, look into the possibilities of further restricting imports of the virus from the United Kingdom.”
Luigi Di Maio, Italy’s foreign minister, posted on Facebook that, “as a government we have a duty to protect Italians, which is why, after alerting the British government, we are about to sign the measure with the ministry of health to suspend flights from Britain.”
Other European countries are also considering doing same in banning flights from UK, these include: Spain, Germany, France, Ireland and Austria.
The new strain of coronavirus, known as VUI-202012/01, is said to gave emerged in UK in mid-September and it is also believed to spread more quickly than the original strain.