The Netherlands bans flights from UK amid new coronavirus strain fears

The Hague, Dec 2 (efe-epa).- The Netherlands has banned flights from the United Kingdom until at least the end of the year amid concerns about a contagious new strain of the virus that causes Covid-19 that has emerged in southern England.

The Dutch health ministry said in a statement Sunday that the same strain had been observed in a sample in the Netherlands in early December.

“This strain of the virus is thought to spread more easily and more quickly and is also harder to detect,” the statement ran.

The country’s institute for public health and the environment (RIVM) recommended new measures to minimize the risk of the new strain of the virus entering the Netherlands.

In light of this, the government decided to implement a ban on flights carrying passengers from the UK until 1 January.

The ban does not include trade workers or health workers, and the country’s ports, including Rotterdam, and train services will remain open.

“The government wishes to emphasize once again that traveling abroad carries a substantial risk of spreading coronavirus. Do not travel unless it is absolutely essential,” the health ministry said in the statement.

It added that the government would work closely with other European Union nations to study further possible measures to limit the spread of the new Covid-19 strain in the UK.

The UK’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, on Saturday announced that London and parts of southeast and eastern England would be moved on to a new tier 4 level of alert over the Christmas holiday period.

His scientific and medical advisory board sounded the alarm when early studies on the new variant of Covid-19 suggested it spread 70% faster than other strains.

Around 20 million people woke up to the new restrictions on Sunday morning, which require them to stay at home save for essential trips such as food shopping and ban the mixing of households.

Those living in tier 4 areas are not allowed to leave the restricted zone and are forbidden from traveling abroad.

Johnson also scrapped his government plan to relax Covid-19 measures during a five-day window straddling Christmas. In other parts of England, families will be able to mix with a maximum of three households on Christmas Day only.

Scotland and Wales followed suit with similar measures.

Johnson’s chief scientific advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance, said that although the new strain of the virus seemed to be spreading faster than others there was no evidence that it caused a worse case of Covid-19 or was more lethal.

The European Medicines Agency is poised on Monday to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use on the continent.

The UK was the first country in the world to approve the vaccine candidate earlier this month. EFE-EPA


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