Coronavirus: EU ambassadors will hold crisis meeting on new COVID-19 strain in UK

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EU ambassadors will hold a crisis meeting in Brussels on Monday on travel restrictions to the UK after the emergence of a new coronavirus strain there suspected to be very infectious.

Several EU countries -- Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy and the Netherlands -- have announced the suspension of air links, and in some cases rail and ferry links, with Britain.

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In most cases, the bans were effective from midnight (2300 GMT) Sunday and were to last a day or two, as a precaution while the threat of the new strain was evaluated and a coordinated response was worked out.

An EU official said ambassadors from representatives from the 27 member states would meet Monday under the bloc’s integrated political crisis response mechanism designed to swiftly react to crises.

They would look at measures such as flights bans and the use of PCR coronavirus testing on travelers coming from Britain.

The meeting comes after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Saturday that he was imposing a severe lockdown on London and much of southeast England because of the new virus variant.

He said the variant could be up to 70 percent more infectious, based on preliminary data showing it had become the prevalent strain in the capital and that case numbers were rising despite boosted restrictions.

He and government medical officials said there were no indications the new variant was any more deadly or immune to vaccines that are starting to be used.

The World Health Organization said it was analyzing Britain’s data to see if the runaway infection figures in Britain were the result of a more potent strain.

The coronavirus has changed into many different variants as it has spread around the world as an expected result of interacting with different hosts with different biological responses.

But none has so far been proven to be more virulent than others or able to easily overcome the barriers -- social distancing, facemasks and frequent hand-washing -- currently recommended.

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