Italy, Belgium and Netherlands have banned flights from the United Kingdom (UK) over concerns of a new strain of COVID-19 in the country.
UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson warned on Saturday that the new strain might be “up to 70 per cent more transmissible.”
Netherlands was the first country to ban flights from UK after its health authorities confirmed at least one case of the same variant that prompted the UK to tighten lockdown rules.
Belgium then followed suit and halted rail connections to the UK. Italy later announced its restriction measures on Sunday.
Alexander De Croo, Belgian Prime Minister, said on Sunday that the order is for 24 hours starting at midnight “out of precaution,” and that train travel from the UK is included in the ban.
“There are a great many questions about this new mutation and if it is not already on the mainland,” adding that he hoped to have more “clarity by Tuesday,” the Belgian Prime Minister said.
In Netherlands, air traffic ban for passengers from the UK began on Sunday by 6am, and it will last until January 1, 2020.
The Dutch Ministry of Health said: “Any introduction of this virus strain from the United Kingdom should be limited as much as possible by limiting or controlling passenger movements from the United Kingdom.
“The cabinet is closely monitoring the developments of the COVID-19 virus abroad and is investigating the possibilities for additional measures for other modes of transport.
“In the coming days, it will, in close collaboration with other European Union (EU) member states, look into the possibilities of further restricting imports of the virus from the United Kingdom.”
Italy’s Foreign Minister, Luigi Di Maio, posted on Facebook that: “As a government, we have a duty to protect Italians, which is why, after alerting the British Government, we are about to sign the measure with the ministry of health to suspend flights from Britain.”
Other European countries such as Spain, Germany, France, Ireland and Austria are also considering banning flights from the UK.
The new strain of COVID-19, known as VUI-202012/01, was said to have emerged in the UK in mid-September and it is believed to be more contagious than the original strain.