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25 May, 2021 11:55

EU curbs on UK travel continue as Austria imposes ban amid fears of India-linked Covid-19 variant

EU curbs on UK travel continue as Austria imposes ban amid fears of India-linked Covid-19 variant

Austria is banning direct UK flights from entering the country, limiting arrivals to returning Austrian citizens. The move comes as several other EU nations showed concern about the spread of the India-linked Covid-19 variant.

The move was announced by the Austrian health ministry on Tuesday. The UK has been added to a list of “virus variant states,” which also include Brazil, India and South Africa, plagued by more transmissible coronavirus strains.

The designation limits arrivals from the UK to only a handful of cases, including those who are traveling for certain “humanitarian reasons” or for visits that are in the “urgent" national interest. The allowed arrivals are obliged to have a PCR test within 24 hours of touching down in Austria.

“Essentially, only Austrian citizens and people who are resident or habitually stay in Austria may enter the country,” the ministry said in a statement. The measures are set to get tougher next week, with a blanket ban on all flights from Britain starting on June 1.

Also on rt.com State-funded UK study says Pfizer, AstraZeneca vaccines are ‘highly effective’ against Indian Covid-19 variant

The move comes a day after another European country, Germany, imposed similar restrictions on the UK. Berlin labeled Britain an “area of variant concern,” banning all non-essential travel to and from the country. German citizens and residents are allowed to come back home from the UK, but they are required to produce a negative Covid-19 test, no older than 48 hours, and to quarantine for two weeks.

France is considering restricting travel from the UK as well, but no blanket ban is on the table so far. Paris is expected to unveil a ‘green list’ of countries on June 9, and Britain is unlikely to make it onto it. Speaking on Monday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian signaled that the UK would likely receive an ‘amber’ designation, which will have certain restrictions on travel. He said the UK would not probably be “on the red list,” which would mean a complete travel ban.

The European restrictions come as the UK registered an up-tick in the so-called Indian variant of Covid-19, the B1.617.2 strain first detected in India back in October. The variant has spread to more than 50 countries since then. New Delhi has criticized people for calling it an ‘Indian variant’, arguing that its origins have not been conclusively established.

Also on rt.com France may apply ‘tougher’ travel restrictions for UK due to surge in ‘Indian variant’ of coronavirus – foreign minister

The UK has seen a rapid increase in the strain’s spread in recent days, with the latest official statistics showing a 160% week-on-week surge. So far, the UK has detected nearly 4,000 cases of the Indian strain – and its sub-variants – prompting fears that the outbreak may jeopardize plans to fully reopen by late June.

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