Coronavirus cases are now rising fast again in the UK, driven by a mutated variant of the virus thought to be much more easily transmissible than other strains.
A further 33,364 confirmed cases have been announced by the government on December 21.
Dozens of countries have introduced UK travel restrictions following the identification of a new strain of coronavirus.
The week-long ban on travel to or from the UK begins on December 23 and applies to all travelers coming from the UK or who have been in the country over the past 10 days.
Some exceptions do apply, however, with Pakistani nationals in the UK on visitor or temporary visas permitted to return if they provide a negative test 72 hours before travel, undergo another test upon arrival and quarantine at home for seven days afterwards.
EU officials are discussing a joint response to the new, more infectious Covid-19 variant in the UK.
Canada and India joined European states in blocking flights from the UK while Europe-bound train services via the Channel Tunnel have been halted.
The new Covid strain is said to be up to 70% more transmissible, but there is no evidence that it is more deadly.
There is also no proof to suggest that it reacts differently to vaccines.
Two meetings were taking place in Brussels on December 21 – one involving health ministers and another with the EU’s crisis response team. But no decision is expected until December 22, when EU ambassadors meet.
Countries that have introduced UK travel restrictions include:
Europe: France, Germany, Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands, Ireland, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Belgium, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Croatia, Finland, Romania, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Russia, Luxembourg, Malta
North America: Canada
Latin America: Argentina, El Salvador, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador
Middle East: Turkey, Israel, Iran, Kuwait, Jordan. Saudi Arabia has also suspended all international flights for a week. Oman has closed all of its land, air and sea borders for a week
A new variant of coronavirus has been blamed for the introduction of strict tier four mixing rules for millions of people, harsher restrictions on mixing at Christmas in the UK, and other countries placing the UK on a travel ban.
Specialists have “moderate” confidence that the new variant is more able to transmit than other variants.
All the work is at an early stage, contains huge uncertainties and a long list of unanswered questions.
Three things are coming together that mean it is attracting attention:
It is rapidly replacing other versions of the virus
It has mutations that affect part of the virus likely to be important
Some of those mutations have already been shown in the lab to increase the ability of the virus to infect cells
All of these come together to build a case for a virus that can spread more easily.
However, we do not have absolute certainty. New strains can become more common simply by being in the right place at the right time – such as London, which had only tier two restrictions until recently.
But already the justification for tier four restrictions is in part to reduce the spread of the variant.
The variant was first detected in September. In November around a quarter of cases in London were the new variant. This reached nearly two-thirds of cases in mid-December.
The virus that was first detected in Wuhan, China, is not the same one you will find in most corners of the world.
The D614G mutation emerged in Europe in February and became the globally dominant form of the virus.
Another, called A222V, spread across Europe and was linked to people’s summer holidays in Spain.
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