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Multiple EU nations halt UK flights, fearing virus variant

The Netherlands banned flights from the U.Okay. for not less than the remainder of the yr whereas Belgium issued a flight ban for 24 hours.

One after the other, a number of European Union nations banned flights from the U.Okay. on Sunday and others like Germany had been contemplating such motion, all in hopes of blocking a brand new pressure of coronavirus sweeping throughout southern England from establishing a powerful foothold on the continent.

The Netherlands banned flights from the U.Okay. for not less than the remainder of the yr whereas Belgium issued a flight ban for 24 hours beginning at midnight and likewise halted practice hyperlinks to Britain, together with the Eurostar. Austria and Italy stated they’d halt flights from the U.Okay. however didn’t say precisely when that might happen.

Italian International Minister Luigi Di Maio stated on Twitter that the federal government was getting ready the ban “to guard Italians” from the brand new coronavirus variant. About two dozen flights had been scheduled to reach in Italy on Sunday, most within the northern area of Lombardy but additionally to Venice and Rome.

German officers, in the meantime, stated they had been contemplating “severe choices” relating to incoming flights from the U.Okay. and the Czech Republic imposed stricter quarantine measures from individuals arriving from Britain. An EU official, who spoke on situation of anonymity as a result of the talks had been nonetheless ongoing, stated Sunday afternoon that the EU Fee was in contact with member states on the quickly growing scenario.

Simply days earlier than Christmas, high-speed practice operator Eurostar cancelled its trains between London, Brussels and Amsterdam starting Monday, however stored trains working on the London-to-Paris route.

The EU governments stated they had been taking motion in response to harder measures imposed Saturday by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on London and its surrounding areas. Johnson instantly put these areas into a brand new Tier four restriction stage, upending Christmas plans for hundreds of thousands.

Johnson stated a fast-moving new variant of the virus that’s 70% extra transmissible than present strains gave the impression to be driving the speedy unfold of recent infections in London and southern England. However he added “there’s no proof to counsel it’s extra deadly or causes extra extreme sickness,” or that vaccines will probably be much less efficient in opposition to it.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo stated Sunday stated he was issuing the flight ban for 24 hours beginning at midnight “out of precaution.”

“There are a terrific many questions on this new mutation,” he stated, including he hoped to have extra readability by Tuesday.

The World Well being Group tweeted late Saturday that it was “in shut contact with U.Okay. officers on the brand new #COVID19 virus variant” and promised to replace governments and the general public as extra is realized.

The brand new pressure was recognized in southeastern England in September and has been circulating within the space ever since, a WHO official instructed the BBC on Sunday.

“What we perceive is that it does have elevated transmissibility, by way of its capacity to unfold,” stated Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19.

Research are underneath method to higher perceive how briskly it spreads and and whether or not “it’s associated to the variant itself, or a mixture of things with conduct,” she added.

She stated the pressure had additionally been recognized in Denmark, the Netherlands and Australia, the place there was one case that didn’t unfold additional.

“The longer this virus spreads, the extra alternatives it has to vary,” she stated. “So we actually have to do all the pieces we will proper now to stop unfold, and minimizing that unfold will scale back the probabilities of it altering.”

Susan Hopkins of Public Well being England stated whereas the variant has been circulating since September, it wasn’t till the final week that officers felt they’d sufficient proof to declare that it has greater transmissibility than different circulating coronaviruses.

Germany has not but spelled out a ban however is contemplating limiting or halting flights from the U.Okay. as properly, the dpa information company reported Sunday.

Europe has been walloped this fall by hovering new infections and deaths as a result of a resurgence of the virus, and many countries have reimposed a sequence of restrictions to reign of their outbreaks.

Britain has seen over 67,000 deaths within the pandemic, the second-highest confirmed toll in Europe after Italy. Europe as an entire has recorded practically 499,000 virus deaths, in response to a tally by Johns Hopkins College that specialists consider is an undercount, as a result of restricted testing and missed instances.

The European Medicines Company, in the meantime, is assembly Monday to approve the primary COVID-19 vaccine for the European Union’s 27 nations, bringing vaccinations nearer for hundreds of thousands of EU residents. The vaccine made by German pharmaceutical firm BioNTech and American drugmaker Pfizer is already in use in the USA, Britain, Canada and different international locations.

The EMA moved up its evaluation of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by every week after heavy strain from EU governments, particularly Germany, which has stated that after the EMA approval it might begin vaccinating residents as early as subsequent Sunday.

In an pressing deal with to the nation on Saturday, Johnson closed all non-essential outlets, hairdressers, gyms and swimming pools and instructed Britons to reorganize their vacation plans. No mixing of households is now allowed indoors in Tier four areas, together with London, and solely important journey is permitted out and in of the realm. In the remainder of England, individuals will probably be allowed to satisfy in Christmas bubbles for simply in the future as an alternative of the 5 that had been deliberate.

After he spoke, movies emerged that confirmed crowds of individuals speeding to London’s practice stations, apparently making a splash for locations within the U.Okay. with much less stringent coronavirus restrictions earlier than the brand new guidelines took impact. Well being Secretary Matt Hancock known as these scenes “completely irresponsible.”

“We in authorities in fact have a accountability, however so does each single individual,” he stated. “The plea that I’ve is that individuals will play their half. As a result of it is just by performing — all of us — that we will get this underneath management.”

Whereas Hancock insisted officers had acted “in a short time and decisively,” critics stated Britain’s Conservative authorities ought to have moved in opposition to rising infections and hospitalizations a lot earlier.

“The alarms bells have been ringing for weeks, however the prime minister selected to disregard them,” stated Keir Starmer, chief of the opposition Labour Get together. “It’s an act of gross negligence by a major minister who, as soon as once more, has been caught behind the curve.”

Hui reported from London. Raf Casert in Brussels and Karel Janicek in Prague contributed reporting.

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