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Covid: Belgium and Netherlands ban flights from UK over variant

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A number of European countries have or are considering banning travel from the UK to prevent the spread of a more infectious variant of coronavirus.

Both the Netherlands and Belgium have suspended flights. Trains to Belgium have also been banned.

Germany is considering similar action.

UK PM Boris Johnson on Saturday scrapped a planned relaxation of Christmas rules for London and large parts of south-east England where cases of the new variant are rising fast.

Health officials say there is no evidence to suggest the new variant is more deadly, or would react differently to vaccines, but it is proving to be up to 70% more transmissible.

Within hours of the UK announcement, the Netherlands said it would ban all passenger flights from the UK from 06:00 (05:00 GMT) on Sunday until 1 January.

Pending “greater clarity” on the situation in the UK, the Dutch government said that further “risk of the new virus strain being introduced to the Netherlands should be minimised as much as possible”.

It also said it would work with other European Union member states in the coming days to “explore the scope for further limiting the risk of the new strain of the virus being brought over from the UK”.

Belgium is suspending flights and train arrivals from the UK from midnight (23:00 GMT) Sunday. Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told Belgian television channel VRT the ban would be in place for at least 24 hours and “is a precautionary measure”, adding “we will see later if we need additional measures”.

Meanwhile, a German health ministry official told AFP news agency that Germany was also considering banning flights from the UK, and South Africa.

The official said the German government was monitoring developments in the UK and working at “high pressure” to evaluate the new information and data regarding the new variant.

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