LONDON: In a knee-jerk response to the confirmation in London that a potent new strain of the corona virus was "out of control," European countries have started banning flights coming from the UK.
The Dutch were the first to clamp the ban on passenger flights, which will last until January 1. Taking a cue from the Netherlands, a German government source said Berlin, too, was considering a similar move as "a serious option" for flights from both Britain and South Africa.
The moves came as around a third of England's population entered a Christmas lockdown. With that came a warning from UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock that the new strain of virus was "out of control".
It seems that scientists first discovered the new variant in a patient in September. But it was on Friday that modelling revealed the full seriousness of the new strain. That seems to be a confirmation of a figure put out by Prime Minister Boris Johnson -- that the new virus strain could be 70 percent more transmissible.
This means it will drive up the 'R' or reproduction rate, which is the average number of people that an infected person passes it on to. There was no evidence it causes a higher rate of hospitalisations or deaths, but if more people caught it because the new strain spread more easily, then 'inevitably' more people would end up in hospital.
The three main symptoms to look out for remain the same: a new and continuous cough, a fever or high temperature, and a change in smell or taste.
Italy, too, is to join other European countries in imposing a ban on passenger flights from Britain, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Health Secretary Hancock hit out at 'totally irresponsible' Londoners who fled the capital on Saturday night after Johnson effectively cancelled Christmas for almost 18 million people in southern England. The railway stations were packed with masked passengers desperate to get home for Christmas as the fresh restrictions hit London.
Furious Northerners blasted 'selfish' Londoners who fled the capital to avoid spending Christmas in a brutal lockdown, amid fears they will spread the 'mutant' strain of coronavirus across the country. Twitter users from the North and West slammed large crowds queuing on a packed platform, calling them ‘plague rats'
It has emerged that UK coronavirus cases were up 25 per cent on last Saturday at 27,052. It means the total number of infections has topped two million.
According to one piece of evidence, this new strain is present throughout Wales.