The airports of several EU countries have closed to travelers from the UK following a recent surge in COVID-numbers partially caused by a new, highly transmittable strain of the virus. As the initial panic has begun to settle, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands have tentatively begun to reopen for some passengers from this morning.
Late last week, a new strain of coronavirus caused a surge in new case numbers in the UK. Health officials have warned that the mutation could be up to 70% more contagious.
Over 40 countries banned air travel from the UK
Not only did the rapid rise in infections cause the introduction of an additional tier – Tier 4 – to the country’s COVID-restriction system, but it also saw other states close their borders. Over 40 countries across the world, including Argentina, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Israel, and Jamaica, have restricted travel from the UK.
With neighboring European countries such as Belgium, the Netherlands, and France being among the first to shut their doors, concerns rose over supply chains. However, it seems the worst misgivings can now be put to rest as some of the immediate knee-jerk reactions give way to partial pragmatism.
Rail, sea, and air services between the UK and France reopened this morning. French and EU citizens, UK nationals living in France, and lorry drivers are now allowed to travel – given that they submit a negative PCR-test. To get drivers stranded in Dover across the channel, the military will assist NHS Test and Trace staff with rapid testing, the BBC reports.
The Netherlands, where the new strain has also been found, too relaxed travel regulations for passengers from the UK as of 00:01 this morning, Wednesday 23rd. The same procedure now applies as for travelers from other countries outside of the EU, which means they must show a negative PCR-test certificate no older than 72 hours. According to the Dutch government’s website, arrivals are then “strongly recommended” to quarantine for ten days.
Belgium, one of the first countries to shut down both rail and air travel from the UK, also partially reopened its borders at midnight. However, only Belgian nationals or those with permanent residence in Belgium will be allowed to enter, the Independent reports. They are also required to provide a negative PCR-test.
From midnight December 31st, coinciding with Brexit no less, Belgium will allow other travelers from the UK to enter. This will again be subject to a negative test result and that they commit to seven days of self-isolation.
The Commission urges states to lift bans
The EU Commission has urged its member states to take a coordinated approach towards travel restrictions from the UK. Flight and train bans should be discontinued given the need to ensure essential travel and avoid supply chain disruptions, it said in a statement issued Tuesday.
“Given the current uncertainties and in light of the precautionary principle, Member States should take coordinated action to discourage non-essential travel between the UK and the EU. At the same time, blanket travel bans should not prevent thousands of EU and UK citizens from returning to their homes,” said Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders in the statement seen by Simple Flying.
Other countries, such as Germany, have ignored the Commission’s request. The German government yesterday extended its ban on travelers arriving from the UK until January 6th. Until then, transport operators are banned from offering plane, bus, ferry, or train journeys from Great Britain to Germany. Ireland has also said it would keep its travel ban in place until December 31st.
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