Dutch government bans UK flights due to coronavirus spread

Prime Minister Mark Rutte's Cabinet added that other forms of transport were still under review. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

THE HAGUE (AFP) - The Dutch government on Sunday (Dec 20) banned all passenger flights from Britain after finding a case in the Netherlands of a new coronavirus strain that has been circulating in the United Kingdom.

The ban, which starts at 6am on Sunday and lasts until Jan 1, came hours after Britain announced a stay-at-home order for part of the country to slow the more infectious variant.

"An infectious mutation of the Covid-19 virus is circulating in the United Kingdom. It is said to spread more easily and faster and is more difficult to detect," the Dutch Health Ministry said in a statement.

The Dutch public health body, the RIVM, therefore "recommends that any introduction of this virus strain from the United Kingdom be limited as much as possible by limiting and/or controlling passenger movements".

Prime Minister Mark Rutte's Cabinet had taken the "precautionary decision" to ban flights from Britain, the statement said, adding that other forms of transport were still under review.

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

The Health Ministry added that a "case study in the Netherlands at the beginning of December revealed a virus with the variant described in the United Kingdom".

Experts were looking at how the infection happened and whether there were related cases.

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

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