LONDON, Dec 20 (Reuters) – Several European countries placed new restrictions on travel to and from the United Kingdom on Sunday due to concern over a new strain of the coronavirus that is spreading rapidly there.
Belgium said it would close its borders to trains and planes coming from the United Kingdom and the Netherlands also suspended flights. Italy said it was planning a similar ban.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and scientists announced on Saturday that the new virus strain had led to spiralling infection numbers. The UK government tightened its COVID-19 restrictions for London and nearby areas and disrupted the Christmas holiday plans of millions of people.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo said the ban on incoming travel from Britain covers Eurostar services via the Channel Tunnel and will take effect for at least 24 hours from midnight on Sunday, broadcaster VRT said.
Belgium was also in touch with France over road transit passengers from Britain, VRT said.
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio, announcing plans to halt flights to and from Britain, said: “Our priority is to protect Italy and our compatriots.”
The Netherlands banned flights carrying passengers from the United Kingdom from Sunday and the restrictions will remain in place until Jan. 1, the Dutch government said. It is monitoring developments and considering additional measures regarding other modes of transport.
The government issued an advisory saying “do not travel” unless it is absolutely essential.
Germany could impose restrictions on flights from the United Kingdom and South Africa – which has also detected a new coronavirus strain – a German Health Ministry said on Sunday.
(Reporting by Reuters bureaus Writing by Angus MacSwan Editing by Frances Kerry)
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