Italy has joined a number of European countries in banning flights carrying passengers from the United Kingdom as Britain detected a new coronavirus strain.
The news come as The Netherlands, Belgium and Austria today announced they would ban flights from the UK to make sure that the new strain sweeping across southern England does not establish a strong foothold on the continent.
Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio announced the move after the UK government warned that the virus was ‘out of control’.
‘The United Kingdom has issued an alert concerning a new strain of Covid-19,’ Di Maio 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.
Italy has joined a number of European countries in banning flights carrying passengers from the UK from Sunday as Britain detected a new coronavirus strain. Pictured: Passengers depart for the Christmas holidays at Fiumicino airport, near Rome, Italy on December 20
The Netherlands was the first country to announce a travel ban, which will remain in place until January 1, the government said in a statement early Sunday.
The Dutch government added that it is monitoring developments and is considering additional measures regarding other modes of transport.
Neighbouring Belgium also said it was suspending flight and train arrivals from Britain from midnight for 24 hours.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo on Sunday said he was issuing the order for 24 hours starting at midnight ‘out of precaution.’
‘There are a great many questions about this new mutation and if it is not already on the mainland,’ he said. He hoped to have more clarity as of Tuesday.
Netherlands will ban flights carrying passengers from the United Kingdom from Sunday as Britain detected a new coronavirus strain. Pictured: Travellers stand in the departure hall of Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, Netherlands on December 17
Germany is also considering banning flights from the UK and South Africa ‘as a serious option’ to prevent the spread of the new strain circulating in the two countries, a source close to the German health ministry said today.
Austria said it would also halt flights from the U.K. but there were no immediate details on the timing of the ban, the Austrian news agency APA reported.
The Czech Republic, meanwhile, imposed stricter quarantine measures from people arriving from the UK. They announced that all people arriving in the country who spent at least 24 hours on British territory during the last two weeks have to isolate as of this Sunday.
The Netherlands said that in early December, sampling of a case in the country had revealed the same virus strain as that found in the UK.
The health ministry said that a ‘case study in the Netherlands at the beginning of December revealed a virus with the variant described in the United Kingdom.’
Experts were looking at how the infection happened and whether there were related cases.
In measures to control the spread of virus, the Dutch government issued a ‘do not travel’ advisory, unless it is absolutely essential.
The Netherlands is under a five-week lockdown until mid-January with schools and all non-essential shops closed to slow a surge in the virus.
The five EU governments say their response comes in reaction to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and scientists announcing on Saturday that the new strain of coronavirus identified in the country is up to 70% more infectious.
Johnson also said London and southeast England, which are currently in the highest level of a three-tier system of rules, would now be placed in a new Tier 4 level.
Boris Johnson told Covid press conference yesterday that a new Tier 4 must be formed to tackle a new ‘highly contagious’ coronavirus variant
The move came after UK Government scientists Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance told the Prime Minister at a No 10 meeting on Friday that the new variant of coronavirus was significantly more easily transmitted than the normal strain.
It has already helped to push up infections in London by two-thirds in the past fortnight and, left unchecked, it could prove catastrophic, they warned.
Areas with the mutant strain have seen higher increases in hospitalisations: 36 per cent in Eastern England, 34 per cent in London and 28 per cent in the South East.
Ministers expect other countries to impose travel bans on UK citizens to prevent the new strain from spreading.