The travel bans so far extend from countries in North and South America to the Middle East.

A traveller walks with a suitcase past an information board at the Eurostar terminal at St Pancras International, as EU countries impose a travel ban from the UK following Covid-19 outbreak, in London, Britain, December 21, 2020.
A traveller walks with a suitcase past an information board at the Eurostar terminal at St Pancras International, as EU countries impose a travel ban from the UK following Covid-19 outbreak, in London, Britain, December 21, 2020. (Reuters)

Many countries have moved to ban flights from the UK in a bid to block a new strain of coronavirus sweeping across southern England from spreading further.

The development comes hours after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that Christmas shopping and gatherings in southern England must be cancelled because of rapidly spreading infections blamed on the new coronavirus variant.

So far France, Germany, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Ireland, Bulgaria, Spain, Turkey, Israel, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, El Salvador, Colombia, Morocco, Chile, Finland, Denmark, and Argentina, Romania, Switzerland and Kuwait, Jordan, Oman, Russia, Hong Kong, temporarily suspended travel from Britain.

Johnson immediately put those regions where the variant is spreading into a strict new Tier 4 restriction level, upending Christmas plans for millions.

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."

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European countries react

France banned all travel from the UK for 48 hours from midnight Sunday, the prime minister's office announced. 

The French statement said that would buy authorities time to find a "common doctrine" on how to deal with the threat. It specified that "flows of people or transport to the UK are not affected."

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said he was issuing a flight ban for 24 hours starting at midnight out of precaution. 

Belgium also halted train links to Britain, including the Eurostar.

A Polish government spokesman also said on Twitter that flights from Britain to Poland will be suspended starting from midnight on Monday due to concerns over a new strain of coronavirus.

Germany said all flights coming from Britain, except cargo flights, were no longer allowed to land starting midnight Sunday, while a Polish government spokesman tweeted the same for Poland but starting on Monday instead.

The Netherlands banned flights from the UK for at least the rest of the year, while Ireland issued a 48-hour flight ban. 

Italy said it would block flights from the UK until January 6, and an order signed Sunday prohibits entry into Italy by anyone who has been in the UK in the last 14 days.

The Czech Republic imposed stricter quarantine measures from people arriving from Britain.

Baltic nations Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania have halted flights, while in the Balkans Croatia and Macedonia following suit with Bulgaria suspended them until January 31.

READ MORE: Germany may ban UK, South Africa flights over new strain

Travel ban extends globally

Beyond Europe, Israel also said it was banning flights from Britain, Denmark and South Africa because those were the countries where the mutation is found.

Canada announced its own ban on Sunday night when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement that for 72 hours starting at midnight Sunday, “all flights from the UK will be prohibited from entering Canada.”

The Central American nation of El Salvador, meanwhile, said it would refuse entry to anyone who has visited Britain in the preceding 30 days.

Colombia's President Ivan Duque said all flights to the UK will be suspended over concerns about the new strain of coronavirus.

"Anyone who arrives in the country from tomorrow who has been in the United Kingdom in the last 14 days will enter a 14-day isolation in our country," said Duque.

Iran also suspended flights to Britain for two weeks on Sunday, state news agency IRNA reported.

"Due to the new circumstances in the spread of Covid-19 in the United Kingdom, flights between Tehran and destinations in the UK will be suspended for two weeks," IRNA quoted Shahram Adamnejad, a deputy transport minister, as saying.

Morocco too said it will suspend air travel with the UK starting Sunday night.

Saudi Arabia on Sunday halted international flights and suspended entry through its land and seaports for at least a week.

Oman will close its land, air and sea borders on Tuesday from 2100GMT for one week, state television reported. The decision follows measures imposed by various countries following the outbreak of a new strain of Covid-19, Oman TV said. 

Likewise, Russia said it will suspend flights with the UK for one week from 2100GMT on Monday.

Jordan has also suspended flights to and from the United Kingdom from Monday until January 3, official said.

It also said all international arrivals must already spend 14 days in isolation in a hotel.

Whereas, Tunisia has suspended all air travel with Britain, Australia and South Africa.

Kuwait will suspend all commercial flights and close its land and sea borders from 2000GMT on Monday until January 1.

Situation in UK 'deadly serious'

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said the day before 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.

READ MORE: UK business groups infuriated with new Covid-19 restrictions

Source: TRTWorld and agencies