No fewer than six countries on Sunday temporarily suspended flights with the United Kingdom (UK) as the nation experiences a surge in new COVID-19 cases and a new strain of the virus moves across southern England.
The Associated Press reported that Austria, Belgium, Germany, Israel, Italy and the Netherlands had halted travel to the UK except for official reasons, a move that came shortly after the British prime minister announced a new wave of restrictions for southern England.
Italy has also banned entry from anyone who was in the UK over the past 14 days, according to the news service, while British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is warning of a new, more easily transmissible strain of COVID-19 afflicting the country.
“Given the early evidence we have on this new variant of the virus, and the potential risk it poses, it is with a heavy heart that I must tell you we cannot continue with Christmas as planned,” Johnson tweeted.
“We are sacrificing our chance to see loved ones this Christmas, so we have a better chance of protecting their lives so we can see them at future Christmases,” he continued.
We are sacrificing our chance to see loved ones this Christmas, so we have a better chance of protecting their lives so we can see them at future Christmases.
The head of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer, accused Johnson of being slow to implement restrictions on gatherings and shutter shops and public places in response to the new wave of infections. The UK experienced a drop in its rate of new infections earlier this month but in recent days has seen the number surge to previous heights. More than 67,000 people have now died across the UK from COVID-19.
“The alarms bells have been ringing for weeks, but the prime minister chose to ignore them,” said Starmer, the AP reported. “It is an act of gross negligence by a prime minister who, once again, has been caught behind the curve.”
President-elect Joe Biden’s surgeon general nominee Vivek Murthy said yesterday that the new, more contagious coronavirus strain reported in the UK does not appear to be any deadlier.
“This news from the UK appears to be about a new strain of the virus that’s more transmissible, more contagious than the virus we’ve seen prior to this,” Murthy, who was surgeon general in the Obama administration, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”