The rapid spread of a new variant of coronavirus has been blamed for the introduction of stricter mixing rules and lockdowns for millions of people in the UK.
France, Germany, Russia, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, Belgium, Israel, India and Canada were among those that shut off travel ties after Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that the highly infectious new strain of the virus was a danger to the country.
More countries are planning similar travel restrictions.
The mutant strain appears to be much more contagious than existing types of the coronavirus, although officials have said it doesn’t appear to cause more severe symptoms.
All viruses mutate all the time, so it is not unexpected that this new variant has emerged.
UK experts say the new Covid-19 strain “moves fast and is becoming the dominant variant”, causing over 70% of infections in London by December.
The strain is also concerning because it has so many mutations – nearly two dozen – and some are on the spiky protein that the virus uses to attach to and infect cells. That spike is what current vaccines target.
The variant can be found across the UK, except Northern Ireland, but it is heavily concentrated in London, the South East and eastern England.
Dr Bharat Pankhania, Senior Clinical Lecturer at Exeter University said that “urgent action” needed to be taken and that previous responses had been far too reactive than proactive.
Meanwhile, Susan Hopkins of Public Health England said that while the variant has been circulating since September, it wasn’t until this week that officials felt they had enough evidence to declare that it has higher transmissibility than other circulating viruses.