London, United Kingdom:
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was due to lead a crisis meeting on Monday as a growing number of countries from France to Argentina blocked flights to the UK over a new highly infectious strain of coronavirus that the UK said was “out of control”.
The World Health Organization also called for stronger containment measures across Europe, which saw 500,000 deaths from Covid-19.
However, there was positive news across the Atlantic that U.S. lawmakers signed a contract for a nearly $ 900 billion Covid-19 financial package to help the struggling Americans.
In London, Johnson convened the COBR emergency committee meeting to “discuss the situation regarding international travel, particularly the steady flow of goods to and from the UK,” a spokesman said.
More than a dozen European nations have already banned flights and travelers from the UK who more are expected to take action.
The crucial transit country, France, blocked people and goods crossing the canal, while the Netherlands said passengers arriving by ferry would be denied entry.
The ban on almost unaccompanied freight traffic to France is due to the fact that companies are trying to relocate goods within a few days until Great Britain finally leaves the trade structures of the European Union after Brexit.
Late on Sunday, Britain’s critical south coast port in Dover announced that it would be closed “until further notice” to all cargo and passenger companies accompanying it due to French border restrictions.
Alarm bells rang across Europe as the new, even more contagious strain of the virus appeared to riot in parts of Britain.
A WHO spokeswoman told AFP: “Across Europe, where transmission is intense and widespread, countries need to redouble their control and prevention approaches.”
A German government source said restrictions on air travel from the UK could be adopted by the entire 27-member EU and that the countries were also discussing a joint response on sea, road and rail links.
French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU leaders Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel held a conference call on Sunday on the subject, Macron’s office said.
Later on Sunday, America banned flights from the UK, including Canada, Chile and Argentina.
However, US officials signaled they would hold back for the time being, while Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was confident that the existing 14-day quarantine rules on arrivals would be enough to deal with the threat.
Despite growing concerns about the new strain, EU experts believe this will not affect the effectiveness of existing vaccines, said Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn.
The assessment was shared by UK Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty.
Johnson said the infectiousness of the new strain forced him to cordon off much of England for the Christmas season.
“Unfortunately, the new strain was out of control. We need to get it under control,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News.
Scientists first discovered the new variant, which they believe is 70 percent more transmissible, in a patient in September. Public Health England announced to the government on Friday when the modeling revealed its full seriousness.
The novel coronavirus has killed more than 1.68 million people since the outbreak in China last December. This comes from a list of official sources compiled by AFP.
And with the onset of colder winter weather in the northern hemisphere – when respiratory diseases flourish – countries are preparing for new waves of Covid-19 with tighter restrictions, despite the economic damage such lockdowns caused earlier this year.
The Netherlands is locked for five weeks until mid-January as schools and all non-essential businesses are closed.
Italy also announced a new regime of restrictions until January 6, which includes restrictions on people leaving their homes more than once a day, closing unnecessary shops, bars and restaurants and restricting regional travel.
Introduction of vaccination
In the US, the $ 900 billion package agreed on Sunday is expected to include vaccine distribution and logistics assistance, additional unemployment benefits of $ 300 per week, and a new round of $ 600 stimulus checks.
Congress is expected to approve the measure soon as the country deals with the world‘s highest number of deaths from the virus.
Globally, the swift introduction of vaccination is seen as the only effective way to end the crisis.
Europe is expected to launch a massive vaccination campaign after Christmas after the US and UK begin poking puffs with an approved Pfizer BioNTech shot, one of several leading candidates.
A US panel of experts recommended on Sunday that people aged 75 and over should be the next to be vaccinated against the virus, along with 30 million frontline essential workers, including teachers, grocery store workers and police.
The initial doses focused on frontline health workers and elderly people in nursing homes.
Russia and China have also started issuing bursts of their own domestically made vaccines.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)