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Canada, EU halt flights from UK amid COVID-19 mutation fears

Latest reports had claimed that the new mutation had spread to Italy

Virus Outbreak India (File) Representational image

Canada became the latest country to ban passenger flights from the UK after news of the spread of a new strain of coronavirus from southern England. The development was reported by news agency Associated Press. France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Ireland and Bulgaria had all announced restrictions on UK travel, hours after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that Christmas shopping and gatherings in southern England must be cancelled because of rapidly spreading infections blamed on the new coronavirus variant. Johnson said Saturday that a fast-moving new variant of the virus that is 70 per cent more transmissible than existing strains appeared to be driving the rapid spread of new infections in London and southern England in recent weeks. But he stressed "there's no evidence to suggest it is more lethal or causes more severe illness," or that vaccines will be less effective against it.

However, latest reports had claimed that the new mutation had spread to Italy on Sunday, on the back of a family arriving from UK

The German government said on Sunday it was planning to restrict travel to and from Britain because of the new coronavirus variant. One by one, several European Union nations banned flights from the UK on Sunday.

The Netherlands banned flights from the UK for at least the rest of the year while Belgium issued a flight ban for 24 hours starting at midnight and also halted train links to Britain, including the Eurostar. Austria and Italy said they would halt flights from the U.K. but did not say exactly when that would take place

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Twitter that the government was preparing the ban "to protect Italians" from the new coronavirus variant. About two dozen flights were scheduled to arrive in Italy on Sunday, most in the northern region of Lombardy but also to Venice and Rome.

The Czech Republic imposed stricter quarantine measures from people arriving from Britain. An EU official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were still ongoing, said Sunday afternoon that the EU Commission was in touch with member states on the rapidly developing situation.

Just days before Christmas, high-speed train operator Eurostar cancelled its trains between London, Brussels and Amsterdam beginning Monday, but kept trains operating on the London-to-Paris route. 

-Inputs from agencies

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