*Germany bans travellers from South Africa
By Chinedu Eze with agency report
Many countries, including Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Austria, Belgium and Israel have banned flights from the United Kingdom due to fears over a new variant of the coronavirus, which scientists said could be 70 per cent more infectious.
These countries made the announcement after the Dutch government confirmed at least one case of the same mutation that has prompted parts of Britain to return to lockdown rules.
The country’s health ministry said the case in Holland had been identified at the beginning of December and was being investigated.
The Ministry said that the air travel ban from 5am (GMT) on Sunday 20 December would likely stay in place until at least January 1, 2021.
“An infectious mutation of the COVID-19 virus is circulating in the United Kingdom. It is said to spread more easily and faster and is more difficult to detect,” the Dutch health ministry said in a statement.
The UK recorded a further 35,928 of coronavirus cases in the latest 24-hour period. Another 326 deaths have been announced within 28 days of a positive test.
Here’s a breakdown of the countries that have made a judgement on the new strain in the UK so far:
Europe’s biggest economy Germany has announced it would restrict travel between Germany and the UK from midnight on Sunday 20 December. It has also banned travellers from South Africa, after the two countries reported identifying a new coronavirus strain.
A regulation is being drawn up and the federal government is in contact with European partners, a spokesperson for the German government said.
Similar measures have been announced by Belgium, which has suspended flights. Trains to Belgium have also been banned.
Italy’s foreign minister Luigi Di Maio, said that the country’s government had decided to act after Britain “raised the alarm”over a new form of COVID-19 strain.
He said that the government has a “responsibility to protect Italians” and as such “after having warned the British government, the health ministry will sign a provision for the suspension of flights with the UK.”
Also Austria joined the raft of countries and said it would also halt flights from the UK, however, it had not confirmed the details on the timing of the ban at the time of publication.
Following the lead of other countries, Bulgaria also announced it will suspend flights to and from the UK over the new variant of COVID-19.
Other EU countries such as France are also reportedly planning similar course.
Meanwhile, Spain has said that it is liaising with the European Commission and the European Council for a coordinated response amid the new situation.
It is not just EU countries banning Britons, Israel has also banned all entry to all non-Israelis flying from the UK following the emergence of the new variation of COVID-19.
Kuwait’s civil aviation authority has added Britain to its high-risk list of countries following the outbreak of the new strain, meaning all flights from the UK are banned.
The Gulf state banned commercial flights to 31 countries which it deemed high risk due to the spread of the virus in August.