LONDON — A highly contagious new variant of the coronavirus is causing countries in Europe and elsewhere to block travel from Britain.
The U.K. last week warned of a new coronavirus variant that is thought to be up to 70% more transmissible than the original strain of the disease. According to the World Health Organization, the new variant has so far been identified in Denmark, the Netherlands and Australia.
News of the strain forced the British government to backtrack on plans to let families mix over Christmas, locking down London and other areas in southern England where infections by the Covid mutation are heavily concentrated.
Over the weekend, several countries announced plans to shut their borders to Britain. In Europe, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland and the Netherlands have all barred flights from the U.K., while Austria and Sweden are reportedly preparing to do the same.
France banned people and freight coming from the U.K., whether by road, air, sea or rail, for 48 hours from Sunday night. The port of Dover was also closed to all vehicle traffic leaving the U.K., according to a statement from authorities. The move is expected to cause miles of lorry back-ups.
On Monday, U.K. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said it was “slightly surprising” that France had closed its border to freight.
The German government, meanwhile, suspended all flights from the U.K. from midnight on Sunday. German Health Minister Jens Spahn said the U.K. virus mutation had not yet been identified in the country.
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