Sunday, 20 December 2020
Italy has now also banned flights from the United Kingdom as a precaution as a more infectious coronavirus variant emerged in England, announced Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio.
With this decision, Italy follows the Netherlands and Belgium, who have both announced they would ban flights from the UK on Sunday, to prevent the spread of a more infectious mutation of the coronavirus, which has seen parts of the UK return to strict lockdown measures for the holiday period.
Several other countries, such as Israel, Germany and France, are also “seriously considering” banning the entry of travellers from the UK. France, like Belgium, is also considering shutting down Eurostar connections, and is “looking for European coordination.”
In the meantime, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is calling on its members in Europe to “strengthen their controls” in the light of the new variant.
In the Netherlands, the ban came into force at 6:00 AM on Sunday morning, and will run until 1 January. Dutch Minister-President Mark Rutte immediately asked for European consultation.
In Belgium, the ban will take effect on midnight and will only apply for 24 hours for the time being, as scientific consultations on this virus mutation are still ongoing, according to Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.
In addition to banning flights, Belgium is also temporarily shutting down all Eurostar connections from the UK.
On Sunday morning, Belgian Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said that the ban was put into force “because we certainly do not want to see the new variant of the coronavirus in England coming here.”
“In the meantime, we are looking at exactly how it works and what we may need to do further,” he said on Flemish radio. “You must not wait too long, with situations like this.”
According to top health officials, there is no evidence that the new variant is more deadly, or would react differently to vaccines, but it is proving to be up to 70% more transmissible, reports BBC.
The Brussels Times