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COVID-19

UPDATE- Travel chaos in Europe – Which countries have imposed transport bans on UK?

Many countries around Europe have suspended travel links from the UK due to a new, more contagious strain of Covid-19, while others intend to do so. Here's the latest on the new travel chaos around Europe.

UPDATE- Travel chaos in Europe - Which countries have imposed transport bans on UK?
AFP

France 

France on Sunday halted all travel from Britain for 48 hours from midnight, including journeys “related to goods transport by road, air, sea or rail”.

The ban on everything but unaccompanied freight comes as companies scramble to shift merchandise across the Channel with days to go until Britain leaves the EU trade bloc.

Prime Minister Jean Castex's office said the 48-hour period would offer time to coordinate a joint EU response that would ultimately allow travel from the UK to resume “with compulsory testing on departure”.

READ MORE: France's UK travel ban – who is affected and what happens next?

Germany 

Germany halted all air links with the UK from midnight on Sunday, with the ban initially slated to last until December 31, Health Minister Jens Spahn told ARD public television.

Cargo flights will be exempt.

A government source told AFP that Berlin is already “working on measures” to extend the suspension into January, when the end of Britain's post-Brexit transition period means it will no longer be covered by EU rules that enable the flight ban.

READ MORE: Germany halts air links with UK over new Covid strain

Italy

On Sunday Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza said that he had signed a decree “which blocks flights from Great Britain and prohibits entry into Italy of people who have stayed there during the last 14 days”.

Anyone in Italy who recently travelled from Britain must be tested, the statement added.

The new strain has been found in one person in Italy who recently returned from the UK.

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about Italy’s UK coronavirus travel ban

Sweden

Sweden will join a growing list of countries to ban travel from the UK over concerns of a new Covid strain, the Swedish government confirmed on Sunday.

The Swedish government is expected to formally make the decision on Monday, but Interior Minister Mikael Damberg confirmed to public broadcaster SVT that it will “come into force as soon as possible”.

Few details were immediately available.

Austria

The Austria Health Ministry announced on Sunday that it will ban flights from the UK from landing at its airports after a more infectious mutation of the coronavirus was detected in Britain.

The ministry told the APA news agency that it was planning a ban, but details on when it will come into force and how low it will last for are yet to be announced.

Denmark

All passenger flights from the United Kingdom to Denmark have been temporarily suspended due to the discovery of a faster-spreading variant of Covid-19.

Denmark will ban incoming flights from the UK for an initial 48 hours, effective at 10am on Monday.

The decision was made to prevent a new strain of Covid-19 found in the UK from spreading, health minister Magnus Heunicke stated on Twitter.

Norway

All passenger flights from the United Kingdom to Norway have been temporarily suspended with immediate effect due to the discovery of a faster-spreading variant of Covid-19.

The measure is effective for an initial two days but can be extended, NRK reports.

A number of other restrictions are to be placed on travellers arriving in Norway from the UK.

Health minister Bent Høie said that authorities in the Nordic countries have begun contacting persons who have travelled to Norway from the UK during the last 14 days. SMS messages have been sent to relevant persons, according to the minister.

READ ALSO: These are Norway's rules for recent arrivals from the UK

Switzerland

Switzerland's Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) suspended air links between the UK and Switzerland from midnight Sunday.

South Africa is also included in the ban, as the new virus variant is spreading through that country as well.

“The new strain is significantly more contagious than the known kind,” FOCA said in a press release on Sunday. 

Spain

Spain and Portugal on Monday decided to join other countries in suspending flights from the UK due to fears over the new Covid-19 strain. 

 

In a statement issued on Monday afternoon, the Spanish government announced its decision to ban flights from the UK. 

Flights will be suspended from Tuesday, December 22nd. Only Spanish citizens and those resident in Spain will be allowed to enter the country.

READ ALSO: Spain suspends UK flights but will allow residents to return

Ireland

Dublin said in a statement that all flights arriving from Britain from midnight Sunday would be banned for at least 48 hours.

Netherlands

All passenger flights from Britain to the Netherlands have been banned until January 1, the Dutch government said.

One case of the new strain has been found in the country, the health ministry added.

Norway

Norway was set to make a decision on whether to ban travel links to the UK on Monday.

Rest of Europe

Elsewhere in Europe, Belgium banned flights from the UK for 24 hours and Finland barred flights for two weeks

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have halted flights from the UK.

Bulgaria said flights to and from Britain would be suspended from midnight Sunday until January 31.

Romania has banned all flights to and from the UK for two weeks, beginning on Monday afternoon.

Croatia's Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said the country would “temporarily suspend passenger air traffic from the UK for 48 hours”.

Member comments

  1. Yesterday there were packed terminals at London airports. People using a loophole by flying from London to Belfast in northern Ireland then travelling onwards to Dublin to catch flights all over Europe. There is no ban on leaving Ireland. This is bad.

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COVID-19

OUTLOOK: Could Switzerland introduce Covid rules this autumn?

After several months of a relatively low number of coronavirus cases in Switzerland, the rate of infections rose by over 22 percent in a span of seven days this week. What measures are Swiss health officials planning to prevent a new wave?

OUTLOOK: Could Switzerland introduce Covid rules this autumn?

The Swiss government has said that “further waves of infections are to be expected in the fall/winter of 2022/2023″.

As in previous waves, “the main objective of managing the pandemic is to prevent an overload of the health system. It is currently difficult to predict the magnitude of the waves of infection and, therefore, the burden on the healthcare system”, it added.

According to current estimates, “it can be assumed that ordinary structures will be sufficient to manage the situation”.

However, unless new, deadly variants emerge in the near future, health officials  expect the new wave to be milder than the ones  that struck in the winter of 2020 and 2021.

There are several reasons for this optimism:

Higher immunity

Due to vaccinations and infections, “it is estimated that 97 percent of the Swiss population has been in contact with the virus”, which means that “immunity within the population is currently high”, authorities said.

Lighter course

This means that unlike the early Covid strains like Alpha and Delta, which were highly virulent, the latest dominant mutation — Omicron and its subvariants — while highly contagious, are also less dangerous for most people.

New vaccines

The new version of the Moderna vaccine, which should better target certain sub-variants of Omicron, will be rolled in Switzerland from October 10th.

Compared to the original vaccine, which was effective mostly against early strains and offered no protection against Omicron, “the new vaccine produces a stronger immune response against the Omicron variants BA.1 and BA.4/5″, according to the drug regulatory body, Swissmedic.

READ MORE: BREAKING: Switzerland approves new Covid-19 boosters

Is the government planning any specific measures this winter?

While the severity of the new wave is not yet known, authorities have made several ‘just-in-case’ provisions by, for instance, extending the Covid-19 law until June 2024.

This legislation, which was approved in a referendum in November 2021, allows the Federal Council to maintain and apply emergency measures that are necessary to manage the pandemic. Without the extension, ithe law would lapse in December of this year.

READ MORE: Covid-19 law: How Switzerland reacted to the referendum results

“No one wants to reactivate the Covid law. But after two years of the pandemic, we have understood that we must be ready”, said MP Mattea Meyer.

While no mask mandates or other restrictions are being discussed at this time, the re-activated legislation would allow the authorities to quickly introduce any measures they deem necessary, according to the evolution of the epidemiological situation.

More preparations from the cantons

As it would be up to the cantons to apply measures set by the federal government, some have asked that financing be made available in case regional hospitals have to again accommodate patients from other cantons.

They are also making sure enough intensive care beds are ready for Covid patients.

What about the Covid certificate and tracing?

Though it is no longer used in Switzerland, the certificate continues to be required abroad.

The government will ensure its international compatibility.

The legal basis for the SwissCovid tracking app will also remain in force and can be reactivated during the winter of 2023/2024, if necessary.

MPs are also debating possible rules to be enforced for cross-border workers in the event of border closures.

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