Dutch ban UK flights to stop virus 'mutation'

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Dutch leader Mark Rutte's cabinet has taken the "precautionary decision" to ban flights from Britain

The Dutch government on Sunday banned all passenger flights from Britain after finding the first case of a new, more infectious coronavirus strain that is circulating in the UK.

The ban, from 6am (0500 GMT) on Sunday until January 1, came hours after Britain announced a stay at home order for part of the country to slow the new variant.

"An infectious mutation of the COVID-19 virus is circulating in the United Kingdom. It is said to spread more easily and faster and is more difficult to detect," the Dutch health ministry said in a statement.

The Dutch public health body, the RIVM, therefore "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."

The health ministry added that a "case study in the Netherlands at the beginning of December revealed a virus with the variant described in the United Kingdom."

Experts were looking at how the infection happened and whether there were related cases.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte's cabinet had now taken the "precautionary decision" to ban flights from Britain, the statement said, adding that other forms of transport were still under review.

He urged Dutch citizens not to travel unless strictly necessary.

"Over the next few days, together with other EU member states, (the government) will explore the scope for further limiting the risk of the new strain of the virus being brought over from the UK," the statement said.

The Netherlands is under a five-week lockdown until mid-January with schools and all non-essential shops closed to slow a surge in the virus.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said early data suggests the virus circulating in London and southeast England is up to 70 percent more transmissible.

dk/rbu