New Covid-19 strain: More than 40 countries ban UK arrivals

European nations have begun to impose travel bans on the UK after it reported a more-infectious and "out of control" coronavirus variant.

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Ireland, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium are all halting flights. The measures vary and are initially short-term but the French rules also affect Channel freight.

 

An EU meeting on Monday morning will discuss a more coordinated response. 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 for those areas, scrapping a planned relaxation of rules over the Christmas period for millions of people.

The British government said Johnson would preside at a meeting of the government’s crisis committee, COBRA, on Monday in the wake of the other nations’ measures. They come at a time of huge economic uncertainty for the U.K., less than two weeks before it leaves the EU’s economic structures Dec. 31, and with talks on a new post-Brexit trade relationship still deadlocked.

Johnson said Saturday that a fast-moving new variant of the virus that is 70% more transmissible than existing strains appeared to be driving the rapid spread of new infections in London and southern England in recent weeks. But he stressed “there’s no evidence to suggest it is more lethal or causes more severe illness,” or that vaccines will be less effective against it.

On Sunday, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock added to the alarm when he said “the new variant is out of control.” The U.K. recorded 35,928 further confirmed cases, around double the number from a week ago.