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Coronavirus digest: Netherlands, Belgium ban UK flights over new COVID strain

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Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, among others, will not be receiving passengers from the UK for the rest of the year

Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, among others, will not be receiving passengers from the UK for the rest of the year

The Dutch government has put a stop to all passenger flights entering from the UK after finding a case in the Netherlands of a new coronavirus strain that has been circulating around Britain.

The ban, which starts at 6 a.m. (0500 GMT) on Sunday and lasts until at least January 1, came just hours after Britain announced a stay-at-home order for the south of England, including London, to slow the more infectious variant.

The Dutch public health body, the RIVM, said it "recommends that any introduction of this virus strain from the United Kingdom be limited as much as possible by limiting and/or controlling passenger movements."

Prime Minister Mark Rutte's Cabinet said that other forms of transport were still under review.

On Sunday, Belgium also banned flights and trains from the UK for the same reason, the AFP news agency reported.

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said he was issuing the order for 24 hours starting at midnight "out of precaution."

"There are a great many questions about this new mutation and whether it is not already on the [European] mainland," he said.

Germany, meanwhile, is considering its own ban, a Health Ministry source told AFP.

The source said the measure is a "serious option" and that developments in the UK are being monitored very closely.

The newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported that ministers were drawing up a new regulation for the cabinet to approve.

The measure would also include a ban on flights to South Africa, where the new strain has also been discovered.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed it is in close contact with British officials over the new variant.

"They'll continue to share info & results of their analysis & ongoing studies. We'll update Member States & public as we learn more about the characteristics of this virus variant & any implications," the WHO tweeted.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said early scientific data suggests the new coronavirus strain is up to 70% more infectious.

Europe

Germany has reported a further 22,771 cases and 409 deaths in the daily update provided by the Robert Koch Institute.

December is set to be the most deadly month so far in Germany's battle with the virus, with almost 10,000 deaths recorded in the first three weeks of the month.

The death toll is likely to be double November's fatality rate of 5,796.

On Monday the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is expected to give its approval for Germany to start vaccinating on December 27.

Asia-Pacific

Thailand has reported its highest daily tally of coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, with 548 new infections across the country. Most of the new cases are connected with an outbreak at a wholesale seafood market on the outskirts of the capital, Bangkok.

South Korea has also reported a record daily high, with 1,097 new cases, the country's Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

Some 188 inmates and staff at a prison in southeastern Seoul have now tested positive for the virus, according to KDCA, bringing the total number of infections linked to the facility to 215.

Australia is tightening its restrictions in Sydney, as of midnight on Sunday, in an effort to quell a recent cluster of cases in the country's most populous city.

Gladys Berejiklian, the premier of the state of New South Wales, told reporters that 30 more infections had been detected in the Northern Beaches area of Sydney in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 68 since a fresh outbreak was detected three days ago. The area began a four-day lockdown on Saturday night.

Americas

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it was paying close attention to reports of allergic reactions to the coronavirus vaccination program and made recommendations on how people with histories of allergies should proceed.

Anyone who had a severe reaction should not get the second dose, the CDC said, defining severe as needing the medication epinephrine or having to go to hospital for treatment.

Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine has become the second pharmaceutical firm to receive the US Food and Drug Administration's authorization for emergency use after BioNTech-Pfizer. The US is the world's hardest-hit nation, with more than 3,000 coronavirus deaths a day.

Canada has surpassed 500,000 cases, according to official figures, recording a 25% increase over the last two weeks.

The government of Ontario province announced this weekend an extension of lockdown measures in Toronto and much of the region until January 4.

"COVID-19 is spreading among people of all ages, with high infection rates across all age groups," Canada's chief medical officer Theresa Tam said.

In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro has dismissed the global hurry to buy and distribute vaccines.

"The rush is not justified," Bolsonaro said in the video posted on social media by one of his sons, Eduardo Bolsonaro. "It is interference in the lives of the people."

The comments came after the Brazilian leader, who has played down the seriousness of the virus from the start of the pandemic, seemed to stoke public fears about potential side effects from getting a jab.

"In the contract, it is clearly stated that Pfizer is not responsible for adverse reactions. If you turn into a caiman, that's your problem," he said, laughing. The caiman is a semi-aquatic reptile similar to an alligator.

jsi/mm (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)


Updated : 2021-01-26 21:27 GMT+08:00