The new strain of Covid-19, which prompted the UK government to impose a Tier 4 lockdown in London and southeastern England and tighten restrictions for all of England over the festive period, is “out of control,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Sunday.
The Netherlands is banning all passenger flights coming from the United Kingdom from Sunday morning in order to minimize “as much as possible” the risk of the new strain from spreading in the Netherlands, according to a press release from the government. The flight ban will remain in place until the new year.
The Dutch government said the same variant of the virus had been detected in the Netherlands in a sample from a case from early December, and that it is conducting further investigations to determine if there are any other related cases.
Meanwhile, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said that Belgium will block travelers from the UK for 24 hours on Monday as a “precautionary measure,” though the ban could be extended if necessary.
“As a precautionary measure, we have decided to stop flights from the UK from midnight for a period of 24 hours, and just as importantly for our country, to do the same for the Eurostar (train) — because that’s actually the main way that people from the UK come into our country,” he said, speaking to CNN affiliate VRT’s Sunday morning news program “De Zevende Dag.”
Hancock said the new variant, which can spread faster than other strains but is not more dangerous, had to be controlled.
“The only way you can do that is by restricting social contacts and essentially, especially in Tier 4 areas, everybody needs to behave as if they may well have the virus and that is the way that we can get it under control and keep people safe,” he said Sunday.
Tough coronavirus restrictions
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday broke the news that London and large parts of southern and eastern England, where cases are surging, would enter Tier 4 restrictions, similar to the lockdown seen in Spring — just days after reiterating his pledge to relax rules over the Christmas period.
Johnson outlined that in Tier 4 areas under the toughest restrictions, there will be no possibility for household mixing over Christmas. In areas under lower alert levels in England, Scotland and Wales, mixing will now be permitted only on Christmas Day.
In a hastily called Saturday press conference, Johnson said that the strain of the virus appears to spread more easily, and may be up to 70% more transmissable than the earlier strain.
Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said on Saturday that the new variant is responsible for 60% of infections in London, which have nearly doubled in the last week.
As with other new variants or strains of Covid-19, this one carries a genetic fingerprint that makes it easy to track, and it happens to be one that is now common. That does not mean the mutation has made it spread more easily, nor does it not necessarily mean this variation is more dangerous.
Multiple experts in the genetics and epidemiology of viruses are noting that this one could be just a “lucky” strain that’s been amplified because of a superspreader event; it could be the mutation somehow…