Several European countries have banned flights to and from the United Kingdom and others were considering such action, after a new strain of the coronavirus has been detected across southern England.

On Sunday, the Netherlands announced an immediate ban on flights. France said it would bar all people coming from the UK for 48 hours from Sunday night, including freight carriers, whether by road, air, sea or rail. Belgium said it would close its borders to flights and trains.

Germany, Italy and the Netherlands ordered a suspension of flights from Britain, while Ireland said it would impose restrictions on flights and ferries from its neighbour.

Italy’s health ministry on Sunday said it has detected a patient infected with the new strain of the virus. “The COVID variant recently discovered in London is worrying and will need to be investigated by our scientists”, Italian health minister Roberto Speranza said.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson on Saturday announced that the new strain is up to 70% more infectious. He also said that London and southeast England, which are currently in the highest level of a three-tier system of rules, would now be placed in a new Tier 4 level.

Johnson added, however, that “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 Saturday, the World Health Organization said it was “in close contact with UK officials on the new #COVID19 virus variant” and promised to update governments and the public as more is learned.


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