London: India, Hong Kong, Canada, Switzerland and Germany are the latest countries to suspend flights to UK, where a new variant appears to be accelerating the spread of Covid-19.
While some countries have banned all flights carrying passengers from the UK into Europe for at least a 48-hour period, some others have suspended flights into the New Year, even as they assess the situation.
France has closed its border with the UK for 48 hours and no lorries or ferry passengers will be able to sail from the port of Dover. Supermarkets fear items would go missing from its shelves as a result of the French-UK border closure. Since evening shoppers were queuing outside supermarkets in UK amid fears that the ban could disrupt vital festive food supplies. A part of the problem is that French authorities are insisting lorry drivers must register a negative Covid test upon arrival. Some 10,000 lorries a day travel through Dover, which accounts for 20 per cent of all goods brought and sold in UK.
Dozens of passengers flying from the UK found themselves stuck at European airports overnight, after the nations imposed coronavirus travel restrictions. Christmas plans have been left in tatters amid new curbs as some airlines refuse to refund passengers for trips they can no longer take.
The number of coronavirus infections in the UK jumped to 35,928 on Sunday. European Union member states, in turn, are due for a meeting in Brussels to discuss a more coordinated response.
Israel, Turkey, Morocco, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and El Salvador have also suspended flights, while pressure was mounting on the United States to take action after Canadian Prime Minister said they were putting a 72-hour stop on travel from the UK.
Christmas easing in UK has been severely curtailed, with households allowed to gather for just one day – Christmas Day itself – rather than the five days previously planned. PM Boris Johnson effectively cancelled Christmas for almost 18 million people in London and in south-eastern and eastern England as the region was put into a new two-week lockdown from Sunday.
Under the new Tier 4 rules non-essential shops - as well as gyms, cinemas, casinos and hairdressers - have to stay shut and people are limited to meeting one other person from another household in an outdoor public space.
Those in Tier 4 were told they should not travel out of the region, while those outside were advised against visiting. ‘‘Everybody, particularly people in Tier 4 areas, needs to behave as if they might well have the virus – that is the only way we are going to get it under control," UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.
The UK has alerted the World Health Organisation about the new variant identified this week, saying it has accounted for some 60 per cent of the capital's cases. The number of people in Wales with the new variant of coronavirus is likely to be a lot higher than currently known, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said. He told a press briefing: “The figures we have at the moment suggest that over 600 cases of the new variant are in Wales, but that is almost certainly, as our public health colleagues tell us, a significant underestimation.”
Covid cases have risen almost eight-fold in just a fortnight in parts of Sussex.