Belgium suspends UK flights, trains over virus variant

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Prime Minister Alexander De Croo arrives for a press conference in Brussels, on December 18, 2020.

Belgium is suspending flight and train arrivals from Britain from midnight (2300 GMT) Sunday after the UK detected a coronavirus variant suspected to be more infectious, a government official told AFP.

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told Belgian television channel VRT the ban will be in place for at least 24 hours.

The abrupt decision came a day after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a lockdown for London and parts of southeast England to at least December 30.

He linked a surge in Covid-19 cases in those areas to the new strain of the coronavirus that he said could be up to 70 percent more infectious than the others seen so far.

Belgium's travel suspension from the UK would affect flights and the Eurostar train service that runs from London.

It follows a similar ban declared by the Netherlands.

Germany, too, is considering barring flights from the UK and from South Africa, where the variant has also been detected, a health ministry source there told AFP.

The European Commission did not immediately respond to an AFP query as to whether such a prohibition on travellers from the United Kingdom would be recommended for all EU countries.

Such travel disruption, if it goes into January, could compound transport problems caused by Brexit, with Britain then leaving the EU's single market, which guarantees movement within its borders.