European countries block flights from UK due to new strain of COVID-19

“There’s no evidence to suggest it is more lethal or causes more severe illness,” UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
By Alex Nitzberg
Last Updated: December 20, 2020 - 1:42 pm

Some European nations are moving to bar flights from the UK due to a new strain of coronavirus spreading in England.

The Netherlands halted flights coming from the UK at a minimum for the remainder of this year and Belgium blocked flights for 24 hours beginning at midnight and additionally stopped train links to Britain, according to the Associated Press. The outlet noted that Austria and Italy also stated that they would stop flights from the country, but did not provide specifics related to timing for the block. 

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio on Twitter indicated that the government was preparing the move "to protect Italians" from the virus strain, according to the wire service, which reported that around two dozen flights were slated to land in Italy on Sunday.

According to the AP, the nations say they are reacting to stricter restrictions applied Saturday in London and its vicinity. The U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that a new strain of the illness, which is 70% more transmissible than existing versions, seems to be causing swift spread in London and southern England.

“There’s no evidence to suggest it is more lethal or causes more severe illness,” Johnson stated according to the AP, or that vaccines will prove less useful in combating it.

An individual with the World Health Organization told the BBC that the version of coronavirus had in September been identified in southeastern England.

“What we understand is that it does have increased transmissibility, in terms of its ability to spread," WHO technical lead on COVID-19 Maria Van Kerkhove said, according to AP. Studies are being performed to gain a grasp of how swiftly it spreads and if “it’s related to the variant itself, or a combination of factors with behavior,” she said. She noted that the strain has also been identified in other countries.