International

Belgium, Italy & Netherlands ban flights from UK over new Covid strain

Several European countries including Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands have announced bans on flights carrying passengers from the UK following the discovery of a fast-spreading strain of Covid-19 in England, with similar plans reportedly being considered by France and Germany, the Guardian reported today.

It said the moves came as millions of people in London and the south-east began their first full day of a new lockdown and the UK health secretary, Matt Hancock, said the newly identified strain of the virus was “out of control”.

Belgium is suspending flight and Eurostar arrivals from Britain from midnight local time on Sunday. The prime minister, Alexander De Croo, told Belgian television channel VRT the ban would be in place for at least 24 hours.

Italy’s foreign minister, Luigi Di Maio, said the government had decided to act after the UK “raised the alarm about a new form of Covid as a result of a mutation of the virus”.

He added: “As a government we have the duty to protect Italians and for this reason, after having warned the British government, the health ministry will sign a provision for the suspension of flights with the UK. Our priority is to protect Italy and our compatriots.”

The Dutch ban, which came into effect from 6am local time on Sunday, will last until 1 January.

Germany is considering barring flights from the UK and from South Africa, where the variant has also been detected, a health ministry source there told Agence France-Presse.

A high-ranking German government official has told the DPA news agency that restrictions on flights from Britain were a “serious option”.

France is also considering suspending flights and trains from Britain after the new strain was detected, BFM Television reported.

The Spanish government said it had asked the European commission and the European council to come up with a “joint, co-ordinated response” to the situation, but added it would “act in defence of the interests and rights of Spanish citizens” if one was not forthcoming.