New Covid strain: Many countries shut door on UK


Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and Italy all announced restrictions on UK travel.

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Published: Sun 20 Dec 2020, 11:32 PM

One by one, several European Union nations banned flights from the UK on Sunday and others were considering such action, all in hopes of blocking a new strain of coronavirus sweeping across southern England from establishing a strong foothold on the continent.

Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and Italy all announced restrictions on UK travel.

The German government said all flights from the United Kingdom would be suspended from midnight on Sunday to protect the country from the new coronavirus variant. The government said it was in contact with its European partners about the travel restrictions too. It wasn’t immediately clear how long the restrictions would be. Germany said it will also restrict travel to and from South Africa.

The Netherlands banned flights from the UK for at least the rest of the year while Belgium issued a flight ban for 24 hours starting at midnight and also halted train links to Britain, including the Eurostar. Austria and Italy said they would halt flights from the UK but did not say exactly when that would take place.

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Twitter that the government was preparing the ban “to protect Italians” from the new coronavirus variant.

About two dozen flights were scheduled to arrive in Italy on Sunday, most in the northern region of Lombardy but also to Venice and Rome.

The Czech Republic imposed stricter quarantine measures from people arriving from Britain. An EU official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were still ongoing, said on Sunday afternoon that the European Commission was in touch with member states on the rapidly developing situation.

Just days before Christmas, high-speed train operator Eurostar cancelled its trains between London, Brussels and Amsterdam beginning Monday, but kept trains operating on the London-to-Paris route.

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