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European countries ban UK flights over new COVID-19 strain

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European countries on Sunday banned travel from the UK and the WHO called for stronger containment measures as the British government warned that a highly infectious new strain of the virus was out of control.

As the World Health Organization urged its European members to beef up measures against a new variant of Covid-19 circulating in Britain, France blocked people and goods crossing the Channel while Germany, Ireland, Italy, Austria, Romania, The Netherlands and Belgium said they were moving to block air travel.

A German government source said the restriction could be adopted by the entire 27-member European Union and that countries were also discussing a joint response over sea, road and rail links with Britain.

Germany’s health minister said that despite growing concerns about the new strain, European Union experts believe it will not impact the effectiveness of existing vaccines.

France’s ban on all but unaccompanied freight arriving from Britain is especially painful, as companies are scrambling to shift merchandise with days to go until Britain finally quits EU trade structures in the wake of Brexit.

The Netherlands imposed a ban on UK flights from 6 am (0500 GMT) on Sunday and Belgium said it would follow suit from midnight with a ban on planes and trains from the UK.

Austria’s health ministry told the newsmen that it would also impose a flight ban, the details of which were still being worked out.

A spokeswoman for WHO Europe told newsmen that across Europe, where transmission is intense and widespread, countries need to redouble their control and prevention approaches.

Romania also said it had banned all flights to and from the UK for two weeks starting Monday afternoon.

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.

(AFP)

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