ANKARA 

Canada has banned all flights from the UK for 72 hours as a new coronavirus variant is rapidly spreading across the European country.

“Given the high number of cases of a variant COVID-19 virus observed in some areas in the United Kingdom, the decision has been made to suspend entry into Canada of all commercial and private passenger flights from the United Kingdom for 72 hours, effective midnight tonight,” the Public Health Agency of Canada said in a statement on Sunday.

The decision was announced following a task force meeting convened by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

While mandatory quarantine measures, which require travelers to quarantine or isolate for 14 days immediately upon entry to Canada, remain in place, “passengers who arrived in Canada today from the United Kingdom are now subject to secondary screening and enhanced measures, including increased scrutiny of quarantine plans.”

“Our government will continue to do what’s necessary to protect the health of Canadians,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu said. “These additional measures will allow public health officials time to gather further evidence and help reduce the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.”

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair said Canada Border Services Agency officers remain vigilant and are ready to implement these enhanced border measures to protect Canadians.

The restrictions “could be extended or enhanced” after the initial three days are completed, he added.

Several countries including Turkey, Belgium, The Netherlands, France and Italy have also suspended air traffic from the UK, which has registered over 2 million cases and 67,503 related deaths.

The new variant is said to be more transmissible, and has led to harsher restrictions across Britain ahead of the holiday season.

The WHO has called on European countries to redouble their health measures.

Canada has so far reported nearly 512,000 cases and 14,245 virus-linked deaths.

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