In this Friday Dec. 18, 2020, file photo, A traveller wearing a face mask checks the flight departures at Schiphol Airport, near Amsterdam, Netherlands AP
European countries started banning flights coming from the UK on Sunday as government in London warned that a potent new strain of the virus was "out of control".
Following the example of the Netherlands, where a ban on all UK passenger flights came into effect on Sunday, a German government source said Berlin, too, was considering a similar move as "a serious option" for flights from both Britain and South Africa.
The Dutch ban came into effect from 6:00 am (0500 GMT) and will last until January 1. And neighbouring Belgium also said it was suspending flight and train arrivals from Britain from midnight.
The moves come as around a third of England's population entered a Christmas lockdown and UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned that the new strain of virus was "out of control".
Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said the day before that millions of Britons would have to cancel their Christmas plans and stay home because the new strain was spreading far more quickly.
Speaking on Sky News, Hancock said the situation was "deadly serious."
"It's going to be very difficult to keep it under control until we have the vaccine rolled out," he said.
It seems that scientists first discovered the new variant in a patient in September.
Susan Hopkins of Public Health England told Sky News that the agency notified the government on Friday when modelling revealed the full seriousness of the new strain.
She confirmed a figure given by Johnson that the new virus strain could be 70 percent more transmissible.
Last week, Europe has become the first region in the world to pass 500,000 deaths from Covid-19 since the pandemic broke out a year ago, killing more than 1.6 million worldwide and pitching the global economy into turmoil. Countries are shutting down their economies again in a bid to rein in the virus.
The Netherlands is under a five-week lockdown until mid-January with schools and all non-essential shops closed to slow a surge in the virus.
Italy also announced a new regime of restrictions until January 6 that included limits on people leaving their homes more than once a day, closing non-essential shops, bars and restaurants and curbs on regional travel.