WHO to meet over UK virus strain; EU starts to ease bans

WION Web Team
London, London, UK (Great Britain) Updated: Dec 23, 2020, 11:17 AM(IST)

The novel coronavirus Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

The new coronavirus variant has swept the UK and spurred global panic just as vaccines are being rolled out. But the European Commission on Tuesday urged EU nations to lift travel bans imposed on Britain in recent days.

Experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) were set to meet on a response to a new fast-spreading Covid strain in the UK even as Europe on Wednesday began lifting travel bans put in place to contain the virus.

The new coronavirus variant has swept the UK and spurred global panic just as vaccines are being rolled out. But the European Commission on Tuesday urged EU nations to lift travel bans imposed on Britain in recent days.

The new strain of the virus, which has also been detected in small numbers elsewhere, appears to spread more easily than other types but experts say there is no evidence it is more lethal or resistant to vaccines.

The World Health Organisation in Europe said its experts would meet on Wednesday to discuss how to handle the outbreak, saying "limiting travel to contain spread is prudent until we have better info".

WHO's Europe director Hans Kluge wrote on Twitter that the organisation would "discuss strategies for testing, reducing transmission & communicating risks".

The death toll from the virus surpassed 1.7 million on Tuesday, roughly a year after it emerged in China. 

The discovery unleashed panic that led to more than two dozen countries suspending UK flights, threatening travel chaos during the holiday season.

The European Union instead urged virus tests be carried out on passengers within 72 hours before travel.

"Flight and train bans should be discontinued given the need to ensure essential travel and avoid supply chain disruptions," the EU said.

The European Union is preparing its rollout of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Sunday, following similar vaccination campaigns in the UK and the US. 

Britain has become increasingly isolated, and one of the biggest concerns was France's ban on freight traffic as part of a 48-hour blockade on the movement of people across the English Channel. 

(with inputs)

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