Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands are banning travel from the UK in an attempt to make sure that a new mutant variant of coronavirus that is sweeping across south-east England does not reach their shores.
Ireland is expected to make a similar announcement later on Sunday.
The Netherlands’ ban came into effect on Sunday morning and will last until at least the end of the year, after the government there said it was reacting to tougher measures imposed in London and surrounding areas on Saturday by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The Netherlands said it will assess “with other European Union nations the possibilities to contain the import of the virus from the United Kingdom”.
After flights were cancelled earlier on Sunday, Eurostar trains between Belgium and the UK have been cancelled from Monday, following the Belgian government’s announcement that borders with the UK will close at midnight.
No trains will run between London, Brussels and Amsterdam.
Trains continue to operate on the Paris route, but France, along with Germany is thought to be considering a travel ban too.
Shortly after the Belgian announcement, Italy ‘s foreign minister announced a suspension of flights to and from the UK.
Luigi Di Maio tweeted: “As the government we have the duty to protect Italians, for this reason, after having advised the English Government, with the health ministry we are signing the measure to suspend flights with Great Britain.”
Mr Johnson said a fast-moving new variant of the virus that is 70% more transmissible than existing strains appears to be driving the rapid spread of new infections in London and southern England.
In a bid to contain the spread of the new variant, the south-east of England has been put under tough new Tier 4 restrictions which ban people from mixing indoors and outdoors with others, while retail, leisure and hospitality businesses must all close.
“There’s no evidence to suggest it is more lethal or causes more severe illness,” the prime minister stressed, or that vaccines will be less effective against it.
The Dutch government is already strongly advising its citizens not to travel unless absolutely necessary.