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EU countries clamp down on UK travel over coronavirus

December 20, 2020

A growing list of countries worldwide, including Germany and France, are deciding to ban air traffic from the UK following reports of a new coronavirus strain. Follow the latest updates here.

Passers-bz in London's Covent Garden walk past a sign that reads "Stop the spread of the coronavirus"
Image: Kirsty O'Connor/empics/picture alliance

This live feed is now closed, catch up on the latest updates here.

  • Germany, Italy, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Romania and Ireland have banned all passenger flights from the UK
  • The clampdown comes after UK detected a new and more transmittable coronavirus strain
  • Germany and Turkey have also suspended all passenger flights from South Africa

All updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)

01:30 The South American countries of Colombia and Chile have also said they will be suspending all flights to the UK over fears about the new strain.

Colombian President Ivan Duque confirmed the development as he said: "From tomorrow flights from Colombia to the United Kingdom and from the United Kingdom to Colombia are suspended."

Chile has made a similar move, cancelling all "direct flights" between Chile and the United Kingdom.

In addition, Chileans and foreigners who reside in Chile who visited the United Kingdom in the last two weeks, must perform a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

The flight ban will take effect from Tuesday and will last for two weeks.

01:05 Canada is also banning passenger flights from the UK in an effort to shut off the new COVID-19 variant sweeping across southern England, according to Canadian media reports.

00:50 Croatia's Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic has confirmed his country would join the growing list in "temporarily suspending passenger air traffic from the UK for 48 hours."

00:45 Kuwait has added the UK to a list of "high-risk" nations and put a stop to flights.

23:55  Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has urged British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to seek an extension to the post-Brexit transition period over the need to tackle the new coronavirus strain.

The period is due to end December 31 but Sturgeon said: "It's now imperative that (the) PM seeks an agreement to extend the Brexit transition period. The new COVID strain — and the various implications of it — means we face a profoundly serious situation, and it demands our 100% attention."

22:05 Saudi Arabia has temporarily suspended all international passenger flights over fears about the new coronavirus variant.

The ban will initially remain in place for one week "until the medical information about the nature of this virus becomes very clear," the kingdom's Interior Ministry said. The country's land and sea ports have also been closed, and passengers who have been in a European country in the past three months have been ordered to get tested for COVID-19.

22:00 In light of the new border restrictions in France, the port of Dover in the UK will be closed to all accompanied traffic "until further notice," it announced in a tweet on Sunday.

21:50 British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will chair an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the new strain's impacts on international travel, especially with regards to the flow of goods in and out of the country.

21:35 Switzerland joined the list of countries barring flights from the UK "until further notice" from midnight on Sunday. The European country also limited travel with South Africa.

21:30 Authorities in Italy have detected the presence of the new COVID-19 strain in an individual who recently returned to Rome from the UK.

The statement by the country's health minister which announced the blocking of flights, also said that people who had been in the UK recently must also be tested.

21:15 The Baltic states of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia have also brought in measures to halt access into their countries from the UK.

20:55 The Czech Republic has introduced stricter quarantine measures for people arriving from the UK.

High-speed train operator Eurostar has canceled trains between London, Brussels and Amsterdam beginning Monday, but kept trains on the London-to-Paris route.

20:35 Germany's Interior Ministry has ordered police to immediately begin controlling passengers from the UK.

German virologist Christian Drosten said the new coronavirus strain had yet to be seen in Germany.

20:30 Turkey has temporarily suspended flights from the UK, the Netherlands, Denmark and South Africa as a precautionary measure against the new strain of the virus, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced.

20:25 Israel has announced it would ban foreign nationals from entering the country from the UK, Denmark and South Africa after a new COVID strain was detected in all three countries.

Israeli authorities also declared strict new rules for nationals returning from these countries, saying they would be confined to quarantine in hotels run by the Israeli military, according to a joint statement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office and the Ministry of Health.

20:20 Bulgaria will not allow foreigners traveling from the UK into the country from midnight onwards, after having cancelled all flights from the UK until December 31 due to fears over the new coronavirus mutation.

The entry ban, initially in force until the end of the year, affects all those who arrive in Bulgaria by land, sea or air and who have had the UK as their point of departure.

20:10 El Salvador has banned travelers who have been in the UK or South Africa in the last 30 days or whose flights included a layover in those countries. The ban would go into effect immediately, Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele announced on Twitter. 

19:49 Romania said it had banned all flights to and from the UK for two weeks starting Monday afternoon.

19:44 Austria's Health Ministry told the APA news agency that it would also impose a flight ban, the details of which were still being discussed.

19:30 A German government source said the UK travel restriction could be adopted by the entire 27-member European Union and that countries were also discussing a joint response over sea, road and rail links with the UK, French news agency AFP reported.

Citing "talks between experts at European authorities," German Health Minister Jens Spahn told public broadcaster ZDF that "according to everything we know so far" the new strain "has no impact on the vaccines", which remain "just as effective."

19:25 Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said he was issuing a flight ban for 24 hours starting at midnight "out of precaution.'' The country also stopped train links to the UK, including the Eurostar.

"There are a great many questions about this new mutation,'' De Croo said, adding he hoped to have more information by Tuesday.

19:20 Sweden will impose travel restrictions on passengers from the UK, Swedish public Broadcaster SVT has said.

"We are preparing a decision to ban entry from the UK. It should come into effect as soon as possible," Minister for Home Affairs Mikael Damberg told SVT. The official decision is set to take place on Monday.

18:20 France is banning all travel from the UK for 48 hours as part of efforts to prevent a new strain of the coronavirus  from reaching its shores.

A statement from the prime minister's office said that the 48-hour period would buy authorities time to find a "common doctrine'' on how to address the threat, adding that "flows of people or transport to the UK are not affected.''

18:15  German Health Minister Jens Spahn announced Germany is "banning all passenger flights from the UK to Germany as of midnight."

The decision comes after several European countries put a stop to all flights coming from the UK.

"Tomorrow we plan to restrict all travel to GB (Great Britain) & South Africa with a government order in light of the reports over a mutation of the virus," Spahn tweeted.

18:00 Italy, the Netherlands, Ireland, and Belgium have also banned all passenger flights from the UK.

You can read more about it in our separate story covering today's top coronavirus updates.

The Dutch government made the decision after finding a case in the Netherlands of the new coronavirus strain that has been circulating around the UK.

ab,mvb,jsi/dj (dpa, AFP, AP, Reuters)