Canada suspends flights from UK for 72 hours amid emergence of new COVID-19 strain

Ottawa: The Canadian government on Sunday announced the decision to suspend flights from the United Kingdom amid a genetic variant of the coronavirus which was identified in the UK.

“The Government of Canada is closely monitoring the genetic variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 identified in the United Kingdom and is working with international partners, including the World Health Organization, to better understand this variant and its impacts,” read a news release from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

According to the release, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau convened a meeting of the Incident Response Group to discuss the new variant of COVID-19 identified in the United Kingdom.

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“Genetic variation of viruses such as the one that causes COVID-19 is to be expected and have been previously observed in parts of the world this year. While early data suggest that the United Kingdom variant may be more transmissible, to date there is no evidence that the mutations have any impact on symptom severity, antibody response or vaccine efficacy,” it read.

“Given the high number of cases of a variant COVID-19 virus observed in some areas in the United Kingdom, the decision has been made to suspend entry into Canada of all commercial and private passenger flights from the United Kingdom for 72 hours, effective midnight tonight,” it added.

With regard to passengers who arrived in Canada on Sunday from the United Kingdom would now be “subject to” secondary screening and enhanced measures that include increased scrutiny of quarantine plans.

Ottawa’s decision comes after a growing number of countries on Sunday halted flights from the UK following the discovery of a new variant of Covid-19, which is said to spread faster than other versions of the virus.

CNN reported that the Netherlands government is banning all passenger flights coming from the UK from Sunday morning until the New Year in order to minimise the risk of the new strain from spreading in the country as much as possible, according to a press release.

The Dutch government also said the same variant of the virus had been detected in the country in a sample from a case from early December, adding that it is conducting further investigations to determine if there are any other related cases.

Meanwhile, Belgium Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said that the country will block travelers from the UK for 24 hours on Monday as a ‘precautionary measure’, although the ban could be extended if required.

According to CNN, Italy Foreign Affairs Minister Luigi Di Malo on Sunday informed that the country will also suspend flights to and from the UK citing the new strain of the coronavirus, although he did not provide more details.

The Czech Republic imposed a mandatory 10-day quarantine on anyone arriving from the UK starting Sunday in response to the new coronavirus strain identified there, the Foreign Ministry announced.

The new strain of Covid-19 is “out of control”, said UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Sunday.

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