(The Southern African Times) – Multiple countries have announced that they will be closing their borders to the UK over fears of a fast-spreading variant of Covid-19. The mutant coronavirus is believed to be up to 70% more transmissible than the original strain. In order to stop its spread, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that London and surrounding areas would suddenly be plunged into lockdown.
South Africa has also announced a new coronavirus variant, called 501.V2, which also appears to be spreading more quickly, with higher viral loads than the original virus. Two of the mutations in the new South African variant also reduce virus sensitivity to some antibodies. The South African mutations may have some consequences for whether current international Covid vaccines will be as effective against its new Covid-19 variant.
Dutch authorities confirmed at least one case of the UK’s Covid-19 variant had reached the Netherlands. Consequently, it was announced that flights carrying passengers from the UK would be banned until January 1, 2021.
Belgium followed suit. The country brought in a 24-hour ban on all UK entrants, starting midnight on Sunday.
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told Belgian broadcaster VRT: “Of course, that could be extended should it appear that we have more conclusive data.”
Eurostar has since suspended all trains between London, Brussels, and Amsterdam.
On Sunday afternoon, Italian foreign minister Luigi di Maio said that the government would be suspending all travel from the UK.
He wrote on Twitter: “As a government, we have the duty to protect Italians. For this reason, after having notified the English government… we are about to sign an order to suspend flights with Great Britain.”
Shortly after, the Austrian government confirmed that air travel to and from the UK will be prohibited.
The Israeli government has also banned entry to all non-Israelis flying from the UK.
Earlier today, Israeli police escorted UK travellers to isolation at state-operated hotels.