Europe on high alert for ‘new’ Coronavirus strain that has 70% faster transmission

The Dutch ban will last until at least the end of 2020, while the Belgian order is only for 24 hours at the moment.

Italy and Austria have joined the Netherlands and Belgium in banning air travel from the UK due to concerns over the new strain of coronavirus.

The Netherlands was the first country to ban flights after health authorities verified at least one case of the same modification that has urged the UK to tighten lockdown rules.

The actions are assumed to last until at least the new year.

Belgium then stopped flights and halted rail connections.

Shortly after midday, Italy’s foreign minister declared it would suspend flights to and from the UK flights, but it is not known how long the ban will be in place.

Austria announced it would also halt flights from the UK but there were no immediate details on the timing of the ban, news agency APA announced.

Ireland’s health minister has stated there will be an announcement on potential restrictions on passengers traveling from Britain to Ireland.

Stephen Donnelly said that he and party leaders are looking at flights and ferries coming from Britain.

French broadcaster BFMTV told a high level “health defence council” would be held at 4 pm to discuss what measures should be put in place.

Germany is also understood to be considering action, with a German government official telling the DPA news agency that restrictions on flights from Britain are a “serious option”.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said on Sunday he was issuing the order for 24 hours starting at midnight “out of precaution,” and that he hoped to have more clarity on Tuesday.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared it was in “close contact” with the UK about the new mutation of the virus, and they have both shared information and results of analysis about the novel outbreak.

England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said the UK had told the international healthcare body about the development after modeling showed a rapid spread of the new variant in southeast England.

Maria Van Kerkhove, from the WHO, said earlier this week the strain bore similarities to a variant initially discovered in mink in Europe.

A new report distributed by the organization has called for “enhanced” surveillance worldwide in light of the recent developments.

The Dutch health ministry said the case there had been identified at the beginning of December and is being investigated.

Meantime, they stated that,

“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 as much as possible”.

The air traffic ban for passengers from the UK began at 6 am today and will apply until 1 January at the latest.

The Dutch government said: “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 EU member states, look into the possibilities of further restricting imports of the virus from the United Kingdom.”

The new strain of coronavirus – known as VUI-202012/01 – is believed to spread more quickly than the original strain and is thought to be the reason for rapidly rising infection rates in London and the South East.

Boris Johnson warned on Saturday that the new strain might be “up to 70% more transmissible”.

While we are fairly certain the variant is transmitted more quickly, there is no evidence to suggest that it is more lethal or causes more severe illness,” the prime minister stated.

“Equally there is no evidence to suggest the vaccine will be any less effective against the new variant.”

Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK government’s chief scientific adviser, said the new variant is thought to have emerged in the UK in mid-September.

By December, it was responsible for more than 60% of infections in London, he said.

Mr. Johnson announced that millions of people in London and many parts of the South East will not be allowed to mix with other households at Christmas as they are now under a new Tier 4 level of restrictions.

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