Several european countries have banned, or are planning to ban, travel from the UK to prevent the spread of a more infectious coronavirus variant. The UK has reported a further 35,928 coronavirus cases today, the biggest daily case total Britain has ever had. Official figures also revealed 326 more people have died, more than double the 144 deaths reported this time last week.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned that the new strain of the coronavirus is “out of control” and suggested parts of England will be stuck in the new, highest tier of restrictions until a vaccine is rolled out.
The Netherlands and Belgium have halted flights, with Italy to follow suit. Trains to Belgium are also suspended. Ireland is expected to restrict flights and ferries from midnight (23:00 GMT) on Sunday. France and Germany are among others considering similar action.
“An infectious mutation of the Covid-19 virus is circulating in the United Kingdom. It is said to spread more easily and faster and is more difficult to detect,” the Dutch health ministry said in a statement.
The World Health Organisation has called on its members to strengthen measures against the coronavirus. “Across Europe, where transmission is intense and widespread, countries need to redouble their control and prevention approaches,” a spokeswoman for WHO Europe said.
In the UK, the new variant was first identified in the middle of October from a sample taken in September and has spread quickly in London and south-east England.The new UK variant has been shown to spread faster than the original virus – up to 70% more transmissible based on modelling figures – but scientific details on the genetic changes, and how they could affect the behaviour of Covid-19, remain unclear.