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Fresh Covid mutation triggers global travel ban from UK

(ATF) New variants of Covid reported from the UK and South Africa have led countries across the globe to shut their borders to Britain on Monday over fears about a highly infectious new coronavirus strain, causing travel chaos and raising the prospect of food shortages in the United Kingdom.

The ban is likely to remain in place during the holidays.

Over 40 countries have placed travel restrictions aimed at avoiding a resurgence of the pandemic, within a day after the UK declared that a new strain and faster spreading coronavirus identified as ‘VUI-202012/01’ was “out of control”.

This new strain of Covid was reported in the UK on December 18, in response to which the UK Government has imposed ‘Tier-4’ restrictions in parts of Britain to contain further spread of coronavirus.

Initial reports suggest that the new variant is 70% more transmissible, however there is no evidence yet to suggest that the new variant is more deadly or would react differently to potential vaccines.

Here are the places that have announced travel bans so far:

Spain and Portugal

Spain and Portugal are suspending flights from the United Kingdom on Tuesday, with Madrid only allowing its nationals or residents to enter from Britain.


France has halted all travel from Britain for 48 hours from midnight, including anyone transporting goods “by road, air, sea or rail”.

The ban on everything but unaccompanied freight comes as companies scramble to shift merchandise across the Channel with days to go until Britain leaves the EU trade bloc.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex’s office said the 48-hour period would give time to coordinate an EU response that would allow travel from the UK to resume.


India suspended all flights from the UK from midnight until December 31, saying that anyone arriving from Britain on transit flights would be also tested.


Poland, which like India has a large diaspora population in Britain, said that flights were being banned from midnight.


Moscow is suspending flights from Britain for a week after a record jump in cases there.

Hong Kong

The former British colony is banning all UK flights arriving from midnight, and the quarantine of passengers who arrived from Britain in the last fortnight is being extended.

All international arrivals must already spend 14 days in isolation in a hotel.


Germany halted air links with the UK from midnight, with the ban slated to last until December 31.

Cargo flights will be exempt.

A government source told AFP that Berlin is already “working on measures” to extend the suspension into January.


All passenger flights from Britain have been banned until January 1. One case of the new strain has been found in the country, the health ministry said.


Flights from Britain from midnight were banned for at least 48 hours. The country shares a highly-porous 499-kilometre (310-mile) border with the UK.


Italy has blocked flights from Britain and prohibited entry of people who have stayed there during the last 14 days.

Anyone in Italy who recently travelled from Britain must be tested, the statement added.

The new strain has been found in one person in Italy who recently returned from the UK.

Rest of Europe

Elsewhere in Europe, Belgium banned flights for 24 hours, Finland for two weeks and Switzerland until further notice, with travellers who have arrived from Britain or South Africa – where the new strain has also appeared – ordered into quarantine.

Baltic nations Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have also halted flights, while in the Balkans, Croatia, Macedonia and Albania are following suit with Bulgaria suspending them until January 31.

Romania is banning all flights to and from the UK for two weeks, as is the Czech Republic.

Norway and Denmark suspended flights for 48 hours with Sweden expected to make a formal announcement later Monday.

Denmark has detected nine cases of the new strain on its soil.


Canada has banned all UK flights for 72 hours, with those who had already arrived from Britain on Sunday subject to screenings and other measures.


Turkey has suspended flights from Britain, Denmark, the Netherlands and South Africa.

Middle East

Saudi Arabia and Oman said they were closing their borders entirely for at least a week because of the new strain.

Israel said it was barring entry to foreign citizens travelling from Britain, Denmark and South Africa, while Jordan is banning UK flights for a fortnight, as is Iran.

Kuwait has added Britain to a list of “high-risk” nations and banned flights.


Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia have all banned flights from Britain, with Algeria deciding to stop repatriating its nationals. Mauritius, a former British colony, has also barred travel from the UK and South Africa.

Latin America

El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele said that anyone who had been in Britain or South Africa in the past 30 days will not be allowed to enter the country.

Peru went further, banning all flights from Europe and the entry of any foreigner who had been in Britain in the last fortnight.

Argentina has banned flights from the UK, while Chile is suspending them from Tuesday.

The government said anyone without a Chilean residence permit who had been in Britain in the past two weeks would be barred from entry.

New vaccine in six weeks?

Meanwhile, The European Medicines Agency (EMA) on Monday granted conditional approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine. However, the regulatory authority recommended its administration to people over 16 years instructed Pfizer to collect and submit follow-up data on the vaccine.

BioNTech Chief Executive Ugur Sahin too said on Monday, he was confident that the vaccine co-developed by his company would be effective against the new variant of the coronavirus.

“Scientifically, it is highly likely that the immune response by this vaccine also can deal with the new virus variant,” he said.

He added: “In principle the beauty of the messenger technology is that we can directly start to engineer a vaccine which completely mimics this new mutation – we could be able to provide a new vaccine technically within six weeks.”

  • With reporting by AFP

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Indrajit Basu

Indrajit Basu is an India-based correspondent for Asia Financial and wears two hats: journalist and researcher (equity). Before joining AF he reported on business, finance, technology, wealth management, and current affairs for China Daily, SCMP, UPI, India Today Group, Indian Express Group, and many more. He is also an award-winning researcher. If he didn't have to pay bills, he would be a wanderer.


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