Britain braces for a Blue Christmas - GulfToday

Britain braces for a Blue Christmas

Blue Christmas

Image for illustrative purpose only.

It’s going to be a Blue Christmas for millions of Britishers not just in the UK but other parts of Europe as well. Christmas celebrations have been cancelled after Boris Johnson ordered a strict new lockdown for vast swathes of southeast England and London.

The prime minister abandoned the government’s original five-day relaxation of measures between 23 and 27 December in light of a new variant of coronavirus that is up to 70 per cent more transmissible than the original.

He issued “stay at home” orders and banned gatherings in areas that fall under the new tier 4 restrictions.

Across the rest of England, the mixing of households in “Christmas bubbles” will be restricted to just a single day on 25 December itself – a measure also adopted by both Scotland and Wales.

To check the new variant of the virus from polluting their atmosphere, several EU states have announced decisions to halt incoming travel from Britain including France, Germany, Bulgaria, Vienna, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Ireland has imposed a 48-hour ban on travel from Britain, the country’s transport minister has confirmed.

The German government said all UK flights, with the exception of cargo flights, would no longer be allowed to land in the country.

The ban would remain in place until at least 31 December.

France has said it will ban all people from entering the country from the UK for 48 hours, beginning midnight on Sunday.

The UK has recorded its highest ever one-day rise in coronavirus infections, with 35,928 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday – taking the total to more than 2.04m.

The new rules sent travellers into a tailspin as they rushed to book last-minute Eurostar tickets in order to leave Britain before more EU states halted incoming travel.

There was a serpentine queue of passengers waiting at St Pancras station in London to board sold-out Eurostar trains.

The new tier 4 rules imposed in London and large swathes of the southeast and east of England restrict travel for limited reasons, such as for work, education or caring responsibilities – this also covers international travel.

Unfortunately, the new strain of coronavirus spreading through London and the southeast of England has spread to other parts of the UK.

Johnson said on Saturday that a fast-moving new variant of the virus that is 70% more transmissible than existing strains appeared to be driving the rapid spread of new infections in London and southern England in recent weeks. But he stressed “there’s no evidence to suggest it is more lethal or causes more severe illness,” or that vaccines will be less effective against it.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said Sunday he was issuing the flight ban for 24 hours starting at midnight “out of precaution.”

“There are a great many questions about this new mutation,” he said, adding he hoped to have more clarity by Tuesday.

Beyond Europe, Israel also said it was banning flights from Britain, Denmark and South Africa because those were the countries where the mutation is found.

The World Health Organisation tweeted late Saturday that it was “in close contact with UK officials on the new #COVID19 virus variant” and promised to update governments and the public as more is learned.

Many wish to get home to their families and loved ones, and want to get out of London. That is understandable. But many are as much concerned about death from the dreaded disease as about celebrating the birth of Christ. The choice between festivity and precaution is perhaps akin to a Hobson’s choice that not many would like to face.

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