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Travel bans on UK pile up as fears grow of virus strain

Travel bans on UK pile up as fears grow of virus strain
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More countries joined the list of nations temporarily suspending travel from the United Kingdom on Monday after British authorities moved to shut down parts of the economy and public life in response to a new, faster-spreading strain of COVID-19 within England.

Argentina, France, Canada, Ireland, Chile, Colombia, Hong Kong, Estonia, Poland, Norway, Turkey and Latvia have all banned some or all travel from the U.K. for various lengths of time, according to multiple news sources, joining a handful of nations that made similar decisions over the weekend. Travel between the U.S. and U.K. has not been halted.

Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Services Brett Giroir said on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that he did not think the virus would overwhelm the U.K.'s capabilities.

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"I read the British medical journals this morning, it's up to 20 percent of cases in one county, aside from that it is very low and we don't know that it is more dangerous," Giroir said. "I don't think there should be any reason for alarm right now."

However, "everything is possible," he added to CNN on Monday.

Officials with the Japanese and South Korean governments also told Reuters that they were monitoring the situation in the U.K. but were not yet moving to ban flights.

Other countries have moved to tighten travel restrictions with the U.K. without imposing a formal ban. Travelers arriving in the Czech Republic from the U.K. will face a 10-day quarantine, and only Portuguese nationals are currently permitted to travel to and from the U.K., which itself has barred outgoing travel from anyone living in a region where some of the highest COVID-19 spread has been reported.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson moved over the weekend to order shops to close ahead of the Christmas holiday, a move he said was in response to the new fast-spreading strain. The country is reporting its highest-ever rate of new COVID-19 cases, and on Sunday saw nearly 36,000 new confirmed infections.

"Given the early evidence we have on this new variant of the virus, and the potential risk it poses, it is with a heavy heart that I must tell you we cannot continue with Christmas as planned," Johnson tweeted.

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"We are sacrificing our chance to see loved ones this Christmas, so we have a better chance of protecting their lives so we can see them at future Christmases," he continued.