UK hits highest daily coronavirus figures with 35,928 new cases
Pictures show manic scenes as passengers sought late departures before travel bans at midnight affected flights to nations across the globe. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has described the new strain as “out of control”, adding that it presents “an incredibly difficult end to frankly an awful year”.
Twitter users at Heathrow described the scenes as “chaos” and requested information for cancelled flights.
The Eurotunnel has also suspended access to its terminal in Folkestone, Kent, while the Port of Dover is closed to freight vehicles hoping to leave the UK over the next 48 hours.
On Monday, the Prime Minister will chair a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergency committee.
Germany, France, Holland, Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Bulgaria, Finland and Denmark are among those blocking UK entrants after the mutant strain of coronavirus was found.
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Canada, Turkey, Morocco, Israel, Kuwait Saudi Arabia and El Salvador have also imposed bans.
The bans range from between 24 hours to two weeks.
The strain, known as VUI-202012/01, may be up to 70 percent more transmissible, experts have said.
It has spread quickly throughout London and the south east of England.
This prompted a revision of Christmas relaxation rules, with around 20 million people placed into a new Tier 4 category lockdown.
Dr Susan Hopkins, from Public Health England (PHE), told Sky News the strain has been detected all over the UK.
She told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “It has been detected in many other parts of the country.
“Every region has cases but with very small numbers.
“It has also been detected in Wales, in Scotland, we have not had any detected in Northern Ireland.”
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Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead, told the BBC the new strain has been located in other countries.
She said: “We understand that this variant has been identified also in Denmark, in the Netherlands and there was one case in Australia and it didn’t spread further there.
“We understand that the virus does not cause more severe disease from the preliminary information that [the UK] shared with us, although again those studies are underway to look at hospitalized patients with this variant.”
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister will chair a COBR meeting tomorrow to discuss the situation regarding international travel, in particular the steady flow of freight into and out of the UK.
“Further meetings are happening this evening and tomorrow morning to ensure robust plans are in place.”
Christmas has been cancelled for those in Tier 4 and has been significantly reduced in other areas.
Mr Johnson told the nation: “We cannot continue with Christmas as planned.”
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