Austria has banned all direct flights to and from the United Kingdom with effect from 1st June. The decision comes as the UK sees a growing number of cases of the Indian variant of COVID-19, which is thought to be more transmissible. The situation is reflective of the fluidity of the European markets, as some relax border restrictions and others tighten them.
According to The Independent, the Austrian government banned direct flights from the UK with effect from next week. The reason behind the move is to prevent cases of a new variant of COVID-19 first detected in India. The EU member has also tightened border control, with only citizens and residents allowed into the country from the UK.
The decision to ban flights comes just two months after direct flights between the countries resumed. In December, Austria instituted a similar ban after the Kent (or UK) variant of COVID-19 was first seen. Flights were suspended until March 21st, until cases in the UK began to come down.
European countries have gone on high alert as the number of cases of the Indian variant grows exponentially in the UK. While not canceling flights, Germany has restricted travel from the UK to only the most essential. This means only German citizens and residents can return to the country and will need to quarantine.
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Ahead of the European summer season, fears of the new variant are running high. The variant, known officially as B1.617.2, has wreaked havoc in India, with cases shattering global records and hospitals running out of essential supplies like oxygen. With vaccine rollouts in full swing, countries are desperate to avoid another wave and imperil their progress.
Europe is still reeling from the effects of the UK’s B.1.1.7 variant, which caused a huge rise in cases across the continent over the winter. This time, countries want to be prepared and stop any chance of the variant taking hold. However, given the connectivity within the block, variants tend to travel between countries fairly rapidly.
According to ITV, the UK has recorded over 5,000 cases of the Indian variant and the figure is growing exponentially. Moreover, cases have also begun to tick up in the UK, with the 7-day average rising to 23.7 cases per 100,000 last week. For now, all eyes will be on the UK as it tries to contain another variant.
While Austria and Germany take swift steps to close their borders, other European nations are lifting bans. Spain welcomed back British tourists from 20th May and does not even require negative PCR tests for arrivals from the country. However, the new variant could reverse this bold reopening. Other countries are also considering tightening border controls in response to the UK’s situation.
What do you think about Austria’s decision to ban direct flights? Let us know in the comments.