Turkey’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has announced that flights from a number of countries including Britain are being suspended due to fears over a new strain of coronavirus.
The minister broke the news via social media on Sunday evening, stating that the President had instructed for flights from Britain, the Netherlands, Denmark and South Africa to be temporarily suspended following concerns over a new variation of the virus, which is thought to be more infectious.
“It has been reported that the rate of transmission has increased in the UK with the mutation of the coronavirus. Following the instruction of our President and with the coordination of our Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure, it has been decided to temporarily suspend flights from Britain, Denmark, the Netherlands and South Africa to our country,” Minister Koca wrote.
The government directive comes into immediate effect. Pegasus and Turkish Airlines have already started informing passengers that their planned flights to or from the four countries have been cancelled. However, any already airborne will be permitted to land in Turkey, with additional precautions being taken for passengers travelling from Britain.
“Within the scope of the measures taken on the mutation risk originating from Britain, all passengers will be tested, and quarantine rules will be applied for flights already en route. The measures are being carried out in total coordination,” the Health Minister said.
Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announces flight ban on Britain & 3 other countries
Koronavirüsün mutasyonuyla İngiltere’de bulaş hızının arttığı bildirilmiştir. Cumhurbaşkanımızın talimatı, Ulaştırma ve Altyapı Bakanlığımızın koordinasyonu ile tedbiren; İngiltere, Danimarka, Hollanda ve Güney Afrika’dan ülkemize olan uçuşlarda geçici durdurma kararı alınmıştır.
— Dr. Fahrettin Koca (@drfahrettinkoca) December 20, 2020
Other countries have also halted flights from the UK, including Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, El Salvador, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, and Sweden.
France said it was suspending “all flows of people from the United Kingdom for 48 hours, and for all means of transport,” including freight. Ireland has followed suite.
The Netherlands has banned all flights from Britain until the end of the year, while Bulgaria said its flight ban would run until the end of January 2021.
The new strain of coronavirus is 70% more easily transmitted & accounts of over 60% of London’s cases
The EU will meet on Monday to discuss concerns over the new fast-moving strain and create a more co-ordinated response.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the new variant of coronavirus is thought to be transmitted 70% more easily than existing strains, and appears to be driving a rapid spread of new infections.
Britain has alerted the World Health Organisation over the new strain, identified this week, which is thought to account for over 60% of London’s current cases.
Talking on SKY News, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned the mutation was “out of control” and the country was facing an “enormous challenge”, with the prospect of some areas remaining in Tier 4 until the UK’s most vulnerable have been vaccinated.
There have already been various mutations of coronavirus since it was first detected in Wuhan, China, at the end of 2019.
Tests show the new Covid-19 vaccines can thwart the new variants of the disease, but ongoing mutations could mean their formulas need to be regularly revised to be able to combat the changes in the virus, and allow the immune system to fight back.
Main image, top, of a Turkish Airlines Airbus A330 flying over London through black thunder clouds on final approach to London Heathrow Airport – March, 2019. Photo © Abdul Quraishi / Shutterstock