Netherlands bans UK flights to stop virus ‘mutation’

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La Haye (AFP)

The Dutch government on Sunday banned all passenger flights from Britain after discovering the first case of a new, more infectious strain of coronavirus circulating in the UK.

The ban, from 6 a.m. (05:00 GMT) Sunday to January 1, came hours after Britain announced a stay-at-home order for part of the country in order to slow down the new variant.

“An infectious mutation of the COVID-19 virus is circulating in the UK. It is said to spread easier and faster and is harder to detect, ”the Dutch Ministry of Health said in a statement.

The Dutch public health body, RIVM, “therefore recommends that any introduction of this viral strain from the UK be limited as much as possible by limiting and / or controlling passenger movements”.

The Department of Health added that a “case study in the Netherlands in early December revealed a virus with the variant described in the UK”.

Experts were examining how the infection had occurred and if there were any related cases.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s office has now taken the “precautionary decision” to ban flights from Britain, the statement said, adding that other forms of transport are still under consideration.

He urged Dutch citizens not to travel unless absolutely necessary.

“Over the next few days, together with other EU member states, (the government) will explore the possibility of further limiting the risk of the new strain of the virus being imported from the UK,” the statement said.

The Netherlands is under a five-week lockdown until mid-January with schools and all non-essential stores closed to slow an increase in the virus.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said early data suggests the virus circulating in London and south-east England is up to 70% more transmissible.

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