EU Nations Act to Limit Spread of New Virus Strain

Flights from UK are cut as governments await answers
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 20, 2020 9:45 AM CST
EU Nations Act to Limit Spread of New Virus Strain
A traveler wearing a face mask checks the flight departures Friday at Schiphol Airport, near Amsterdam, Netherlands.   (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, FILE)

Several European Union nations on Sunday banned flights from the UK, and Germany was considering limiting such flights to make sure that a new strain of coronavirus sweeping across southern England does not establish a strong foothold on the continent. The Netherlands banned flights from the UK for at least the rest of the year while Belgium issued a flight ban for 24 hours starting at midnight and also halted train links to Britain, including the Eurostar. Austria and Italy said they would halt flights from the UK but did not give details on any timing of the ban, the AP reports. Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Twitter that the government was preparing the measure "to protect Italians" from the new coronavirus variant. About two dozen flights were scheduled to arrive in Italy on Sunday, most in the northern region of Lombardy but also in Veneto and Lazio, which include Venice and Rome respectively.

German officials were considering "serious options" regarding flights but have not taken action, while the Czech Republic imposed stricter quarantine measures for people arriving from the UK. The EU governments say they are acting in response to tougher measures imposed Saturday in and around London by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said Sunday said he was issuing the flight ban for 24 hours starting at midnight. "There are a great many questions about this new mutation and if it is not already on the mainland," he said. The new strain was identified in southeastern England in September, a WHO official told the BBC on Sunday. Studies are under way on how fast it spreads and whether "it's related to the variant itself, or a combination of factors with behavior," she said. The strain had also been identified in Denmark, the Netherlands and Australia. "The longer this virus spreads, the more opportunities it has to change," she said. "So we really need to do everything we can right now to prevent spread."

(More coronavirus stories.)

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