Countries ban flights from UK over new COVID strain

A number of European countries have banned, or are planning to ban, travel from the UK to prevent the spread of a more infectious coronavirus variant. 

 The Netherlands and Belgium have halted flights, with Italy to follow suit. Trains to Belgium are also suspended. Ireland is expected to restrict flights and ferries from midnight (23:00 GMT) on Sunday. 

France and Germany are among others considering similar action. The new variant has spread quickly in London and south-east England. 

 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. 

 “The United Kingdom has issued an alert concerning a new strain of Covid-19,” Luigi Di Maio of Italy wrote on his Facebook account. 

“As the government, our duty is to protect Italians and for this reason… we will sign, with the health minister, a decree suspending flights to and from Britain,” he said, without specifying when the measure would come into effect. 

 According to the Sky TG-24 news channel, boarding of flights from Rome’s main Fiumicino airport had already been blocked. 

 In a health ministry statement issued on Sunday afternoon, Health Minister Roberto Speranza added that he had signed a decree “which blocks flights from Great Britain and prohibits entry into Italy of people who have stayed there during the last 14 days”. 

 Anyone already in Italy who recently travelled from Britain must be tested for coronavirus, the statement added. 

 “The variant of Covid recently discovered in London is worrying and will have to be further investigated by our scientists. 

In the meantime, we choose the path of greatest caution,” Speranza added. 


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