European nations tighten borders to Britain over virus mutation fear

Dec 22 , 2020. 9 hours ago – 01:27 KYODO NEWS

Passengers arrive at St Pancras International train station in London on Dec. 20, 2020, as several European countries ban travel to and from the United Kingdom due to fears over the emergence of a new variant of coronavirus. (Anadolu Agency/Getty/Kyodo)

LONDON – A number of countries in Europe and beyond are scrambling to tighten their borders to travelers from Britain amid growing fears over a new strain of the novel coronavirus detected in the country.

According to BBC, more than 40 countries and regions, including Hong Kong, India and Russia, have suspended flights from Britain to prevent the spread of a new variant of coronavirus.

France banned all travel from Britain for 48 hours starting on Monday, while Belgium, Germany, Italy, Ireland and the Netherlands temporarily suspended flights from the country as did Canada, Iran, Israel and Turkey.

The European Union will hold an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss measures in response to the rapid spread of a new variant of the virus in Britain.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Saturday the new strain may be up to 70 percent more transmissible and placed London and some other areas under a new, tighter level of restrictions, scrapping a planned relaxation of rules over the Christmas period for millions of people.

The new strain has already been found in Australia, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands and South Africa, according to media reports.

The new variant started appearing in September and was confirmed the following month, according to the British government. In London, 62 percent of infections were caused by the new strain on Dec. 9, compared with 28 percent on Nov. 18.

There have been 1,108 confirmed cases with this variant as of Dec. 13, they said.

Earlier this month, Britain began administering a COVID-19 vaccine developed by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. and German partner BioNTech SE, becoming the first Western country to put such a vaccine into practical use.