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EU shutting out travellers to and from UK amid new highly infectious Covid-19 strain scare

FILE PHOTO. A passenger arrives at St Pancras Eurostar station in London. ©REUTERS / Toby Melville

21 December, 2020.

Discovered in Italy after it imposed its travel ban is the highly contagious British Covid -19 strains that prompted EU states to shut down travel to and from the UK

The new coronavirus strain has been isolated in a laboratory at Celio Military Hospital in Rome, Italy. It was obtained from a person that had previously tested positive for Covid-19 according the nation’s health ministry.

“The Celio Scientific Department … sequenced a genome of a virus … [similar] to the variant found in the UK over recent weeks,” the ministry stated on Sunday.

The Italian authorities confirmed that the patient infected with the new virus strain and his partner had recently returned from the UK and landed in Rome’s Fiumicino airport.

Both of them have been placed in isolation while their family members and “close contacts” were said to be following “procedures established by the ministry.”

Due to concerns about the new strain of virus, Italy on earlier Sunday joined other European nations temporarily suspending all travel to and from the UK

Even those who had travelled through British territory over the last 14 days have been barred from entering Italy, under an order signed by the Health Minister, Roberto Speranza.“This Covid variant, recently discovered in London, is worrying and will need to be investigated by our scientists,” the minister said, while providing no details about the timing of the ban.

Rome also declared a nationwide lockdown for the upcoming holidays, closing non-essential stores and restricting home visits.

Other EU nations, including Austria, Belgium, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands, also said they would shut down all travel to and from the UK, while Turkey said it’s shutting down connections with both the UK and the Netherlands, as well as with Denmark and South Africa.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed the highly contagious nature of the new strain which is “out of control,” as he called for more restrictive measures to stem its spread.

Tier-4 lockdowns in London, the Southeast, and Peterborough in the east on Saturday was announced by the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.

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