Multiple countries, including France, Germany, Spain, and India, have suspended all flights from the United Kingdom as officials there grapple with an outbreak of a "mutant" strain of the novel coronavirus that some worry is more contagious than COVID-19.
According to Bloomberg News, some countries — including Saudi Arabia and Oman — have canceled all international flights for a week due to panic over the new strain of the virus.
The new, mutated strain of the virus was discovered in September and sparked fears that it was even more contagious than COVID-19; however, some experts caution that it is too early to make such a determination with any level of certainty and that it is normal for viruses to mutate.
However, whether the virus is actually more contagious than COVID-19 or not, the British government has warned that it is spreading "out of control," particularly in the southern areas of England and Wales, which have seen huge increases in the number of confirmed cases per 100,000 people in the last few weeks.
The sudden closure of travel to and from the U.K. has disrupted shipping, as trucks bearing containers lined up at the port of Dover with nowhere to go.
During the course of announcing a series of strict new lockdown measures on Saturday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the new virus is up to 70% more transmissible than COVID-19, and Italy's foreign minister alleges that confirmed cases of the new virus have shown up on the European mainland. Health officials in Europe have also conceded that the prevalence and spread of the new virus may negatively impact the efficacy of the coronavirus vaccines that are currently being distributed by Pfizer and Moderna, although it is too early to determine that for certain.
The new strain of the virus was initially discovered via genome sequencing in a British patient in September and was initially believed not to be a source of serious concern. However, the extent to which this mutation has spread has caused serious concern, particularly within the European continent, about interaction with the U.K.