- A reeported new variant of the coronavirus that is said to be 70% more infectious.
- Belgium imposed a 24-hour suspension.
- Italian Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio confirmed that his country will also suspend flights from the United Kingdom.
The Netherlands, Belgium, and Italy announced on Sunday the ban on the arrival of flights from the United Kingdom in their territories, after the appearance on British soil of a new variant of the coronavirus that is said to be 70% more infectious.The ban in Holland is valid for at least the rest of the year.
The Dutch government said it will evaluate with the other countries of the European Union (EU) the “possibilities to contain the import of the virus from the United Kingdom”.
For its part, Belgium, which also banned rail traffic from the United Kingdom, imposed a 24-hour suspension. The nation’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said on Sunday that the 24-hour ban is just a precaution.
“There are a great many questions about this new mutation,” he said, adding he hoped to have more clarity by next Tuesday.
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio confirmed that his country will also suspend flights from the United Kingdom. ‘As a government we have a duty to protect Italians, so for this reason, after a warning the British government, we are about to sign the order to suspend flights with Great Britain.’ he said in a Facebook post.
New Variant of the Virus “Out of Control”
Other countries, like Germany and France, are considering adopting the same measure, to prevent the new variant announced this Saturday by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson from reaching the European continent.
The German government has not yet announced what action it should take, but according to sources in Berlin, the authorities plan to limit or suspend the arrival of flights from British territory. According to the DPA news agency, government officials have consulted neighboring countries on the issue and closely follow developments.
In announcing the discovery in a statement to the nation on Saturday, Johnson said preliminary data suggested that the Sars-Cov-2 mutation could be “up to 70% more transmissible”.
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the new strain of the virus was “out of control” and that the situation was “deadly serious”.
“Essentially we have got to get that vaccine rolled out to keep people safe. Given how much faster this new variant spreads it is going to be very difficult to keep it under control until we have the vaccine rolled out,” he told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday program.
The country has started a massive vaccination campaign that is still in its first phase, whose target is the elderly and health professionals.
Europe ‘Locked Down’
Last week, Europe became the first region in the world to surpass the 500,000 covid-19 death mark. Since the emergence of the coronavirus, a year ago, the disease has killed more than 1.6 million people and infected 76 million worldwide.
The Netherlands is under a five-week lockdown that ends in mid-January, with the closure of schools and non-essential trade.
Italy has also announced a series of restrictions for the Christmas and New Year period, which limit the movement of people and suspend the activities of a large part of commerce and restaurants, in addition to banning regional travel.