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COVID-19: Germany to suspend air links with UK from midnight

COVID-19: Germany to suspend air links with UK from midnight

FILE PHOTO: German Health Minister Jens Spahn holds a news conference on upcoming coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccinations, in Berlin, Germany, December 18, 2020. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

BERLIN: Germany will suspend air links with Britain "from midnight", the health minister said Sunday (Dec 20), following in the footsteps of Belgium and the Netherlands after a new more infectious coronavirus strain appeared in the UK.

A government source had earlier told AFP the restriction could be adopted by the entire 27-member European Union and that countries are also discussing a joint response over sea, road and rail links with Britain.

"All flights will stop from midnight," health minister Jens Spahn told public broadcaster ARD, although cargo flights will be exempt.

Spahn added that from Monday, "we will restrict all arrivals" by sea, rail and road by citizens of Britain and South Africa, where the new strain has also been detected.

Germany, which holds the EU's rotating presidency until the end of the year, is leading talks on the possible bloc-wide response.

READ: Britain says new COVID-19 strain 'out of control'

READ: European nations halt UK flights, fearing new COVID-19 variant

The new coronavirus strain is believed to be 70 per cent more contagious than before, sparking fear as the world is already under pressure from the second wave of the pandemic.

"It (the mutation) has not yet been identified in Germany," Spahn said, adding that "we take the reports from Britain very seriously".

"Much faster infection with the illness would change the picture significantly," Spahn said, as Germany is one of the EU nations hardest hit by the second wave with intensive care beds almost fully occupied.

The country re-entered lockdown this week, closing schools and non-essential businesses.

Spahn urged the public to "cancel all non-essential trips" in general.

Germany's halt to UK flights will for now only stand until Dec 31, when Britain definitively leaves the EU system.

The country will then no longer be subject to a relevant directive from Brussels.

But Berlin is already "working on measures" to extend the flight ban into January, the government source said.

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Source: AFP/nh

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