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Iran Press TV

New COVID-19 variant forces Iran, other regional countries to suspend UK flights

Iran Press TV

Monday, 21 December 2020 7:15 AM

Iran and some other countries in the Middle East have joined a list of nations halting flights to and from the UK amid growing fears of a new, more transmissible COVID-19 strain originating in southeast England.

An Iranian deputy transportation minister announced on Sunday night that based on a Health Ministry directive, flights between Iran and the UK are suspended for two weeks.

"Given the new circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 disease in England, flights between Tehran and Britain will be suspended for two weeks at the discretion of the Health Ministry in order to prevent the transmission of the disease and try to maintain public health," Shahram Adamnejad told IRNA.

The new COVID-19 strain has already prompted the British government to impose stricter measures in hopes of blocking the spread of the highly infectious disease.

"The spread is being driven by the new variant of the virus," UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at a press conference on Sunday. "It appears to spread more easily and may be up to 70% more transmissible than the earlier strain."

World Health Organization (WHO) technical lead for COVID-19 Van Kerkhove has said the new variant originates in southeast England and has been identified in Denmark, the Netherlands and Australia.

"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," she told the BBC on Sunday.

Also, Italy later announced that it has found a patient infected with the new coronavirus strain.

Besides Iran, some other Middle Eastern countries were quick to impose tighter traveling restrictions.

Turkey announced late on Sunday that it had suspended flights from the UK and some other countries, including South Africa, the Netherlands and Denmark, according to the country's Anadolu Agency.

"It has been reported that the rate of transmission has increased in the UK with the mutation of the coronavirus," Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca wrote on Twitter.

"Under the directives of our President in coordination with our Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure, a temporary suspension has been decided for flights from the UK, Denmark, the Netherlands, and South Africa to our country," Koca said.

Kuwait also joined the countries that banned flights from the UK, Kuna News Agency reported.

"Upon instructions from health authorities, the United Kingdom has been added to a high-risk list of countries from which flights to Kuwait are banned," Kuwait's Directorate of Civil Aviation said on Twitter.

Saudi Arabia suspended its international commercial flights for a renewable week, SPA quoted an interior ministry source as saying.

According to the source, the entry to the kingdom through land and sea ports will be also suspended for a renewable week, Reuters reported.

Israel banned incoming flights from the UK, Denmark and South Africa, and barred entry to Israel for all foreign citizens arriving from those countries.

The other countries that announced a suspension of air traffic with the UK included Canada, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, France, the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, Latvia and Estonia.

The list, however, is still growing.

In the meantime, the World Health Organization has advised people to take all protective measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, as it announced on Sunday that it was in close contact with UK officials over the new COVID-19 strain.

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

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