Travel suspensions to UK rise as concern mounts over mutant Covid strain

(Update 1: adds info from various countries)

Toronto/New Delhi/Budapest/Hong Kong/Geneva, Dec 20 (EFE).- Several countries across the world on Monday suspended air travel to the United Kingdom in the wake of a rapidly spreading mutant variant of the coronavirus detected in Britain.

India announced on Monday that it was suspending all flights to and from the UK until the end of this month.

“Considering the prevailing situation in UK. Govt. of India has decided that all flights originating from UK to India to be suspended till 31st December 2020 (23.59 hours),” the ministry of civil aviation tweeted.

The suspension is set to take effect from midnight on Tuesday.

Similarly, Hungry also suspended flight arrivals from Britain starting today and until further notice, although the restriction does not apply to cargo planes.

Earlier in the day, Hong Kong authorities had suspended all passenger flights from the UK starting midnight on Monday, while any person – including Hong Kong residents – who has spent more than two hours in the European country during the past two weeks has also been banned from entering the Chinese semi-autonomous territory.

Those who have recently returned from Britain have to now spend 7 additional days in home-isolation after the 14-day mandatory quarantine period at hotels, with violators set to be fined HK$ 5,000 ($645).

Switzerland has also included South Africa in its flight ban announcement along with the UK, and ordered those who have arrived from these countries since Dec. 14 to undergo a 10-day mandatory quarantine.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had tweeted about the suspension of all flights to UK – initially for 72 hours – on Sunday night, adding that the government of Canada was closely monitoring the genetic variant of the virus to “better understand” its impacts at a time when evidence was “limited.”

“Given the high number of cases of a variant Covid-19 virus observed in some areas in the United Kingdom, the decision has been made to suspend entry into Canada of all commercial and private passenger flights from the United Kingdom for 72 hours, effective midnight tonight,” an official statement from the health department said.

Trudeau also warned that passengers coming from the United Kingdom and arriving in Canada on Sunday would be “subject to secondary and stricter control measures.”

Canada had thus joined European countries like France, Austria, Italy, Belgium, Ireland and the Netherlands that on Sunday announced the ban on flights from the United Kingdom after the detection of the new variant of Covid-19.

Morocco and Turkey have also joined the list of countries announcing travel restrictions to Britain.

In the UK, the new variant has led to the confinement of more than 20 million people.

The British Health Minister, Matt Hancock, admitted in statements to the media that the new variant of the coronavirus is “out of control” and did not rule out that the latest Tier 4 restrictions imposed on London and southeastern England may have to be maintained for several months.

The Public Health Agency of Canada in a statement said a genetic variation of viruses such as the one that causes Covid-19 was expected and had been previously observed in parts of the world.

“While early data suggest that the United Kingdom variant may be more transmissible, to date there is no evidence that the mutations have any impact on symptom severity, antibody response or vaccine efficacy.” EFE


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