With a new variant coronavirus strain detected in the UK, Hong Kong has also decided to ban all passengers’ flights from the country as of Tuesday to avoid the spread of the infection in the region.

Hong Kong Health Minister Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee said on Monday the move effectively meant banning all arrivals from Britain, including Hong Kong residents.

“We have never imposed such stringent measures on a place before. But we think that the mutated virus strain in Britain could be coming, menacingly, and we must block the spread of the mutated strain at the source,” Chan said.

Hong Kong authorities also extended the quarantine period for people who came from the UK by an extra week, daily South Chiba Morning Post reported.

The move came as several European countries – including France, Germany, Italy, and Austria, and Turkey – announced a suspension of flights from the UK due to similar concerns.

The World Health Organization also asked European countries to redouble their health measures amid the new fast-spreading strain.

Chan said: “This is the most serious and critical moment for Hong Kong.”

“We don’t see any room to relax the existing social-distancing rules, which will be extended to January 6,” she said, referring to a ban on restaurants from providing dine-in services after 6:00 p.m. local time (1000GMT), limiting diners to two per table, and closing bars, pubs, and other entertainment and sports facilities.

Hong Kong has reported 8,153 coronavirus cases, including 129 deaths.​​​​​​​

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