The Netherland government has banned all passenger flights from the UK after reports revealed the finding of a more infectious Coronavirus strain that is circulating in Britain. The ban, which will remain in force until January 1, 2021, at the earliest, came hours after the UK announced a stay-at-home order in part of the country to slow the spread of the new variant.
In a statement, the Dutch health ministry said the infectious mutation of the Coronavirus that was circulating in the UK could "spread more easily and faster and is more difficult to detect." Therefore, the Dutch public health body, the RIVM recommended that any introduction of the new strain from the UK "be limited as much as possible by limiting and/or controlling passenger movements."
According to the statement, the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's cabinet has taken the "precautionary decision" to ban flights from the UK. The statement also added that other forms of transports were still under review. "Over the next few days, together with other EU member states, [the government] will explore the scope for further limiting the risk of the new strain of the virus being brought over from the UK," the statement read.
The Netherlands has imposed a five-week lockdown until mid-January to slow the virus spread amid surging cases of new infection. The country has reported over 687,000 Coronavirus cases and more than 10,000 COVID-19 related deaths.
New Coronavirus Strain
According to the chief medical officer Chris Whitty, the UK has identified a new variant of COVID-19 through Public Health England's genomic surveillance. "As a result of the rapid spread of the new variant, preliminary modeling data, and rapidly rising incidence rates in the South East, the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) now consider that the new strain can spread more quickly," he said.
The official also noted that the UK authority had informed the World Health Organization (WHO). British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that early data indicated the virus circulating in southeast England and London was up to 70 percent more transmissible. On Saturday (December 19), while imposing a new, stricter level of coronavirus restrictions, Johnson said that the families must cancel their Christmas gatherings and most shops should be closed.
However, Dr. Lipi Roy, an American physician, told MSNBC that "it's important for your viewers to understand the emergence of new strains is actually a normal part of virus evolution". Dr. Roy added that the current strain in the UK was "moving faster, growing faster" but there was no evidence that it was "causing more serious disease" and the "particular strain would not respond to the vaccines that are rolling out".