Belgium to ban flights and trains from UK
Belgium will ban flights from the United Kingdom (UK) starting Sunday at midnight for at least 24 hours, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said on a TV program on the Een, a public Dutch-language TV station in Belgium owned by the VRT, Trend reports citing Xinhua.
Eurostar trains between Brussles and London will also be temporarily suspended, according to the report.
For the time being, the Belgian measure only applies for 24 hours, as scientific consultations on this virus mutation are still ongoing. "However, it could be extended, if that proves necessary," he said, according to newspaper Brussels Times.
The move came after the discovery in the UK of a new more infectious strain of coronavirus that is spreading in the island country.
Meanwhile, the Dutch government on Sunday announced a ban on flights carrying passengers from the UK. The flight suspension takes effect Sunday at 06:00 local time and will be in effect until Jan. 1.
Italy's Ministry of Foreign Affairs also announced Sunday the country would temporarily ban flights between Italy and Britain. It is not clear how long the block would remain in force in Italy.
COVID-19 indicators are on the rise again in Belgium. The Belgian public health institute Sciensano on Sunday reported 2,535 new cases per day during the week of Dec. 10 to 16. That is a 15 percent increase on a weekly basis.
Currently, 2,527 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized and 539 of them are in intensive care.
To date, Belgium has recorded a total of 623,760 cases of contamination and 18,545 COVID-19-related deaths of patients since the beginning of the pandemic.
On Saturday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued strict new lockdown rules for London and parts of England over the next two weeks as the infection rate there surged in recent days.
Johnson said the country was suffering from a new variant of the deadly coronavirus that was as much as 70 percent more transmissible than previous variants of the virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said it is studying the new variant of the virus in cooperation with Britain and would make the results of its analysis available when completed. In the meantime, the WHO continues "to advise people to take all protective measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus and comply with national authorities' guidance."
According to media reports, Austria, Germany and France are considering similar measures.
The development came as vaccines are being developed or approved in Germany, China, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, among others, to fight against the virus.