Lorries queue on the A20 to enter the port of Dover in Kent.
Gareth Fuller | PA Images by way of Getty Images
LONDON — A extremely contagious new variant of the coronavirus is inflicting countries in Europe and elsewhere to dam travel from Britain.
The U.Ok. final week warned of a new coronavirus variant that’s considered as much as 70% extra transmissible than the unique strain of the illness. According to the World Health Organization, the brand new variant has up to now been recognized in Denmark, the Netherlands and Australia.
News of the strain pressured the British authorities to backtrack on plans to let households combine over Christmas, locking down London and different areas in southern England the place infections by the Covid mutation are closely concentrated.
Over the weekend, a number of countries introduced plans to close their borders to Britain. In Europe, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland and the Netherlands have all barred flights from the U.Ok., whereas Austria and Sweden are reportedly making ready to do the identical.
France banned folks and freight coming from the U.Ok., whether or not by street, air, sea or rail, for 48 hours from Sunday night time. The port of Dover was additionally closed to all car site visitors leaving the U.Ok., in accordance with a assertion from authorities. The transfer is anticipated to trigger miles of lorry back-ups.
On Monday, U.Ok. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps stated it was “slightly surprising” that France had closed its border to freight.
The German authorities, in the meantime, suspended all flights from the U.Ok. from midnight on Sunday. German Health Minister Jens Spahn stated the U.Ok. virus mutation had not but been recognized within the nation.
Belgium’s ban prevents flights and trains — together with the favored Eurostar high-speed rail service — arriving from the U.Ok. Meanwhile, Italy has blocked all flights from the nation by way of to Jan. 6, with the Italian well being ministry saying its first case of the brand new virus variant had been reported in Rome. The Netherlands has banned flights from Britain till Jan. 1.
Ireland, which normally has vital passenger site visitors with the U.Ok. presently of 12 months, introduced flights arriving from England, Wales and Scotland could be banned for not less than 48 hours from midnight.
The U.Ok. authorities stated it’ll maintain a disaster assembly on Monday to debate the worldwide travel scenario. The European Council is anticipated to carry talks on a coordinated EU response to the brand new Covid variant at 10 a.m. London time.
The scenario may additional complicate Brexit talks. Britain and the European Union stay in impasse over post-Brexit commerce relations as a Dec. 31 deadline looms, with disputes over points such as fisheries plaguing negotiations. Sterling sank sharply versus the greenback, falling 1.2% to round $1.34.
Other countries, together with Canada and Israel, have additionally imposed new measures barring flights from the U.Ok.
Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, stated Saturday that the U.Ok. had recognized a new Covid variant that “can spread more quickly” than prior strains.
It’s not clear whether or not the brand new strain transmits extra simply, makes folks sicker or modifications the way in which their immune system responds to the virus in the event that they have been already contaminated or vaccinated. So far, Whitty, stated, research counsel the brand new strain is considerably extra transmissible however there is not any proof to counsel it causes a larger demise fee.
Whitty added there was a “working assumption” that vaccines ought to nonetheless work in opposition to the mutant strain.
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock stated Sunday that the brand new variant was “out of control” and steered it might be months earlier than strict coronavirus restrictions could be allowed to finish.
“The new variant is out of control and we need to bring it under control,” Hancock informed the BBC’s Andrew Marr program on Sunday.
“Essentially we’ve got to get that vaccine rolled out to keep people safe,” Hancock stated in a separate interview with Sky News.
“I think that, given how much faster this new variant spreads, it is going to be very difficult to keep it under control until we have the vaccine rolled out.”
The U.Ok. was the primary nation to start out rolling out a main Covid vaccine — specifically, the one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. The vaccines are solely being administered to probably the most susceptible folks within the U.Ok. presently, and it isn’t clear when they’ll grow to be extra extensively accessible.