Friday 05 March 2021

The Netherlands bans flights from UK to keep out new coronavirus strain (update)

Immigration control at Schiphol airport. Photo: Depositphotos.com

The Netherlands has banned flights from Britain from 6am on Sunday, following the spread of a new, possibly more infectious variant of coronavirus in the south of England.

The ban will run until January 1, 2021, the Dutch government said in an update on the measures on Sunday afternoon. ‘On that date, as a result of Brexit, the United Kingdom will become a third country. Travellers from the UK arriving in the Netherlands by airplane or ferry will then have to produce a negative test declaration for COVID-19,’ the statement said.

The  flight ban follows recommendations by Dutch public health institute RIVM which says movements between the two countries should be limited as much as possible to try to control the spread of the virus.

Road, sea and train travel is so far unaffected, but the government is considering ‘additional measures regarding other forms of transport.’

The new variant of the virus has already been identified in the Netherlands and officials are now trying to trace carriers and to determine how they became infected.

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

‘The government wishes to emphasise once again that travelling abroad carries a substantial risk of spreading coronavirus. Do not travel unless it is absolutely essential.’

Airlines

Schiphol airport says passengers who should have been travelling from the UK to the Netherlands should contact their airline for further information. KLM is still assessing the impact of the ban and is urging passengers to monitor the website for further information, broadcaster NOS reported.

Eight KLM flights from London, three from Glasgow, two from Edinburgh and two from Manchester were among the flights from the UK due to land at Schiphol on Sunday. All these flights are now listed as cancelled on the KLM website. In total, KLM flies too and from 13 different UK locations.

A KLM spokeswoman told DutchNews.nl flights to the UK are going ahead as planned because they have not been banned, but aircraft will return to the Netherlands with freight but no passengers. However, passengers are advised to check their flight status.

The airline is contacting transit passengers and trying to rebook them via a different hub, the spokeswoman said. The airline is currently in the process of updating its website.

Belgium too has brought in a flight ban which will run for 24 hours at least while Italy too has temporarily suspended air traffic. France and Germany are said to be considering a similar measure.

Shops

The coronavirus meaures in the south and east of England, including London, were tightened up from midnight, and include the closure of all but essential shops and a ban on visitors during Christmas.

Virologist and Dutch government advisor Marion Koopmans said she expects the vaccinations which have been developed to protect against coronavirus will work well on the new strain.

In the long term, vaccines will have to be adapted to deal with different mutations, she told podcast Virusfeiten on Saturday.

This article will be updated as more details come in.

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