WORLD / EUROPE
Britain hit by virus travel bans
Nations move quickly as new strain ‘out of control’ in UK
Published: Dec 21, 2020 04:58 PM

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson  Photo:Xinhua


Countries worldwide banned arrivals from the UK on Monday over a new highly infectious coronavirus strain which Britain said was "out of control," as the WHO called for stronger containment measures.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was to chair the cabinet emergencies committee on Monday, his office said, after a slew of nations from Turkey to Canada blocked arrivals from Britain by air.

Crucial transit country France, moved to block people and goods crossing the Channel, while the Netherlands said passengers arriving by ferry would be denied entry.

The emergency committee would "discuss the situation regarding international travel, in particular the steady flow of freight into and out of the UK," a spokesperson said.

The ban on all but unaccompanied freight crossing to France comes as companies scramble to shift merchandise with days to go until Britain finally quits EU trade structures in the wake of Brexit.

Late Sunday, Britain's critical south coast port at Dover said it was closing to all accompanied freight and passengers due to the French border restrictions "until further notice."

Alarm bells were ringing across Europe - which became the first region in the world to pass 500,000 deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic broke out a year ago - as the new, even more infectious strain of the virus appeared to be raging in parts of Britain. 

A WHO spokesperson said that "across Europe, where transmission is intense and widespread, countries need to redouble their control and prevention­ approaches."

A German government source said restrictions on air travel from Britain could be adopted by the entire 27-­member EU and that countries were also discussing a joint response over sea, road and rail links.

French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and EU chiefs Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel held a conference call on Sunday about the matter, Macron's office said.

Later Sunday, bans on flights from Britain were being implemented in the Americas, including by Canada, Chile and Argentina. US officials however signaled they were holding off on the move for now.

Scientists first discovered the new variant, which they believe is 70 percent more transmissible, in a patient in September. Public Health England notified the government on Friday when modeling revealed its full seriousness.
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