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Several EU countries ban flights from UK over new Covid strain
London, December 20, 2020
Several European countries have barred passenger flights from the UK in the wake of the discovery of a new fast-moving strain of novel coronavirus in the country.
Austria, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands have stopped travel from the UK on Sunday, and France and Germany are considering similar moves, according to reports.
The development comes as millions of people in the UK began their first day of a newly-imposed lockdown even as Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said the newly identified strain of was "out of control".
Belgium has suspended flight and Eurostar arrivals from Britain from midnight local time on Sunday. Belgian Prime Minister, Alexander De Croo, told a television channel that the ban would be in place for at least 24 hours.
The ban by the Netherlands, which came into effect from 6 a.m. local time on Sunday, would last till January 1.
Media reports suggested that Germany wants to ban all flights from the UK from midnight until January 6. Similarly, France is also considering suspending flights and trains from the UK.
Israel has also announced a ban on flights from Britain following the discovery of the fast-spreading variant of Covid-19.
A statement issued by the Israeli Prime Minister's Office said that the coronavirus cabinet decided to ban also flights from Denmark and South Africa, where the new variant has been found.
The prohibition became effective immediately and will be reviewed in seven days, the cabinet said.
The goal of the ban is "to prevent the arrival of the new strain from abroad," the statement read, adding that tests are underway to see if it had already begun to spread in Israel.
Israeli TV news channels reported that Israeli citizens who returned from England were stopped at the airport and requested to enter a 10-day quarantine in a hotel. Channel 12 TV news reported that some passengers who had refused to go to the hotel have been returned to England.
"We have closed the skies to all flights to Israel from Britain, Denmark and South Africa ... if necessary, we will ban flights from additional countries," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement after the coronavirus cabinet meeting.
"Now, when the vaccine is in our hands and we see the light at the end of the tunnel, it is important that we continue to follow the rules," he said.