Atmosphere tense for UK passengers held at German airports

A Covid-19 test centre at Frankfurt International Airport in Germany on Dec 19, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

BERLIN (AFP) - "Please help us leave!" says a woman in a video shared online, one of dozens of passengers from Britain stranded in German airports on Sunday night (Dec 20).

Countries around the world - including Germany, France and Italy - have begun banning flights and travellers from the UK after a new strain of coronavirus was detected there.

British travellers still arriving in Germany on Sunday were prevented from leaving the airport, with health officials and nurses - some dressed in hazmat suits - administering immediate Covid-19 tests.

These measures hit 63 people arriving in Hanover from Britain, who were kept overnight in the airport and will not be permitted to leave until they receive a negative test result - expected on Monday morning.

In the meantime, the terminal's officials set up camp beds to help passengers spend the night.

Among the detained travellers, the atmosphere was tense.

"We are at Hanover airport and we are held against our will, we were tested and were prohibited from leaving the premises while awaiting the results," said Ms Manuela Thomys, in a video shared online by German daily Bild.

Groups of people, including a nine-month-old baby, can be seen in the clip. "Please help us leave!" Ms Thomys says.

Local authorities have apologised for the inconvenience caused ahead of Christmas.

"Our aim is to prevent the new variant of the virus from entering the region," Hanover health official Andreas Kranz explained to German news wire DPA.

Germany reported a record in daily new infections last Thursday, surpassing the 30,000 mark for the first time, and has recorded a total of 24,125 deaths.

Scientists first discovered the new strain of the virus - which they believe is 70 per cent more transmissible - in a patient in September.

But alarm bells were set ringing across Europe last week as the strain appeared to be raging in parts of Britain.

Europe last week became the first region in the world to pass 500,000 deaths from Covid-19 since the pandemic began a year ago.

A spokesman for the World Health Organisation told AFP that "across Europe, where transmission is intense and widespread, countries need to redouble their control and prevention approaches".

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