European countries have begun to impose travel bans on the UK after it reported a more-infectious and “out of control” coronavirus variant.
Ireland, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium are all halting flights.
The new variant has spread quickly in London and south-east England. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday introduced a new tier four level of restrictions for those areas, scrapping a planned relaxation of rules over the Christmas period for millions of people.
Top health officials said the new variant was up to 70% more transmissible.
Within hours of the UK announcement on Saturday, the Netherlands said it would ban all passenger flights from the UK until 1 January. Later on Sunday it said it would also bar ferry passengers arriving from the UK, although freight would continue.
France suspended all travel links, including freight lorries, with the UK for 48 hours from midnight on Sunday (20).
In response to France’s ban, Eurotunnel said it would suspend access to its Folkestone terminal for traffic heading to Calais.
In Ireland, which has significant passenger traffic with the UK at this time of year, the government announced that flights arriving from England, Wales and Scotland would be banned for 48 hours at least from midnight, and “in the interests of public health, people in Britain, regardless of nationality, should not travel to Ireland, by air or sea”.
In Germany, an order from the ministry of transport said planes from the UK would not be allowed to land after midnight on Sunday, although cargo would be an exception. Health Minister Jens Spahn said the UK variant had not yet been detected in Germany.
Belgium suspended flights and train arrivals from the UK from midnight on Sunday for at least 24 hours as a “precautionary measure”.
Italy is blocking all flights from the UK until 6 January.
Austria is to ban flights from the UK. Bulgaria has suspended flights to and from the UK from midnight but, unlike the short-term measures in many other nations, its ban lasts until 31 January.
Turkey has temporarily banned all flights from the UK as has Switzerland.
The new variant was first detected in September. In November it made up around a quarter of cases in London. This reached nearly two-thirds of cases in mid-December.