Several countries ban UK flights over new coronavirus strain

11:12 PM | 20 Dec, 2020
Several countries ban UK flights over new coronavirus strain
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LONDON – A new variant of coronavirus has been found which is growing faster in some parts of England. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said at least 60 different local authorities had recorded Covid infections caused by the new variant.

Large parts of south-east England, including London, are now under a new and stricter level of restrictions in a bid to curb the rapidly spreading virus.

Hancock said the World Health Organization had been notified and UK scientists were doing detailed studies. 

There was "nothing to suggest" it caused worse disease or that vaccines would no longer work, he added.

The World Health Organization (WHO), in a tweet, said it is in "close contact" with UK officials over the emergence of a new variant of coronavirus. 

Along with the UK, the same mutation of the Covid-19 virus has also been detected in the Netherlands, Denmark and Australia, the WHO told the BBC. 

There is no evidence to suggest the new variant reacts differently to vaccines. 

Meanwhile, a number of European countries have or are considering banning travel from the UK to prevent the spread of a more infectious variant of coronavirus. 

On Sunday, the Netherlands introduced a ban on passenger flights from the UK until 1 January because of the new variant.  The Dutch government also said it would work with other European Union member states in the coming days to "explore the scope for further limiting the risk of the new strain of the virus being brought over from the UK". 

Belgium have suspended flights. Trains to Belgium have also been banned. 

Italy's foreign minister has indicated his government plans to ban flights. 

France and Germany are among others reportedly planning similar action. 

Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González said Spain also wanted a coordinated EU decision on the matter.

In Ireland, urgent government talks are being held and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said he expected a decision later on Sunday on a new advisory for travel from Britain. 

Austria is also planning a ban on flights from the UK, with details currently being worked out, Austrian media reported.

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday introduced a new tier four level of restrictions, scrapping a planned relaxation of rules over the Christmas period for millions of people. On Sunday, the number of recorded daily infections in the UK reached an all-time high of 35,928 new cases.