…As Italy mull flight suspension
The Dutch government on Sunday banned all passenger flights from Britain after finding the first case of a new, more infectious coronavirus strain that is circulating in the UK.
This is as Italy is also contemplating suspending flight from UK.
The ban imposed by Sutch government is from 6 am (0500 GMT) on Sunday until January 1, came hours after Britain announced a stay-at-home order for part of the country to slow the spread of the new variant.
“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 Dutch public health body, the RIVM, therefore “recommends that any introduction of this virus strain from the United Kingdom be limited as much as possible by limiting and/or controlling passenger movements.”
The health ministry said a “case study in the Netherlands at the beginning of December revealed a virus with the variant described in the United Kingdom.”
Experts were looking at how the infection happened and whether there were related cases.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s cabinet has now taken the “precautionary decision” to ban flights from Britain, the statement said.
Eurostar said service would be interrupted from London to Amsterdam and Brussels starting Monday, while ferry company Stena Line has announced a cutback.
“We stopped taking reservations last night after the Dutch government announced a ban on flights from Britain,” Stena spokesman Simon Palmer told AFP.
Previous bookings for the journey from Harwich, England, to Hoek van Holland will be honoured, he said.
Rutte urged Dutch citizens not to travel unless strictly necessary.
“Over the next few days, together with other EU member states, (the government) will explore the scope for further limiting the risk of the new strain of the virus being brought over from the UK,” the statement said.
The Netherlands is under a five-week lockdown until mid-January with schools and all non-essential shops closed to slow a surge in the virus.
Meanwhile, Italy is to join other European countries in imposing a ban on passenger flights from Britain, the foreign minister said Sunday, as the British government warned that a new more infectious strain of the virus was “out of control”.
“The United Kingdom has issued an alert concerning a new strain of Covid-19,” Luigi Di Maio wrote on his Facebook account. “As the government, our duty is to protect Italians and for this reason… we will sign, with the health minister, a decree suspending flights to and from Britain,” he said, without specifying when the measure would come into effect.
According to the Sky TG-24 news channel, boarding of flights from Rome’s main Fiumicino airport had already been blocked.
In a health ministry statement issued on Sunday afternoon, Health Minister Roberto Speranza added that he had signed a decree “which blocks flights from Great Britain and prohibits entry into Italy of people who have stayed there during the last 14 days”.
Anyone already in Italy who recently travelled from Britain must be tested for coronavirus, the statement added.
“The variant of Covid recently discovered in London is worrying and will have to be further investigated by our scientists. In the meantime, we choose the path of greatest caution,” Speranza added.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said early data suggests the virus circulating in London and southeast England is up to 70 percent more transmissible.