There was chaos at airports across the UK today. More than 30,000 travelers were stranded when hundreds of flights were canceled.
A growing number of European nations have banned flights from the UK to prevent a mutated strain of coronavirus from crossing its borders, causing panic at terminals across the continent.
The move has resulted in queues of people eagerly awaiting Covid tests at Heathrow Airport in west London, where more than 80 departures have been suspended to date – more than half of them on British Airways – with the number rising steadily, as more countries prohibit incoming flights.
At least 200 flights to Europe have been canceled, with the affected routes including Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Geneva and Paris as well as long-haul flights to Russia and India.
A Heathrow spokesman told Mailonline that only passengers with a ticket to a destination that has not yet banned arrival in the UK will be allowed into the airport.
The spokesman added: "If you don't have a ticket or are traveling to a country that has an active ban, don't come to the airport. We don't want the airport to be flooded or similar scenes that happen on Saturday night in St. Pancras were seen. & # 39;
Heathrow doesn't test people coming to the UK from other countries – because the government hasn't made this a policy yet.
The spokesman added, "We've been pushing for testing since April but still don't have government approval. Once they're ready to catch up, we're ready to go."
However, the Irish Foreign Secretary confirmed that the Department of Transport plans to organize a limited number of flights today and tomorrow to accommodate those who have to return to Ireland for Christmas.
The news will be a shot in the arm for Irish residents stranded in the UK after the Irish government imposed a 48-hour travel ban on anyone entering the country from the UK.
British passengers were stranded at German airports last night and locked in a terminal until they could test negative for Covid-19 after Europe sealed the UK off because of its alarming new disease barrier.
Nurses in hazmat suits were checking recent arrivals from the UK on Sunday night when angry passengers were told they would have to sleep in the same room and wait until morning to leave the airport.
The Prime Minister will chair a meeting of the Cobra this morning after travel bans spread across Europe and Canada, Chile and Argentina also cut off Britain, although the United States has not yet done so.
Heathrow Airport Terminal 2 was very busy this morning with passengers queuing to leave the UK
Travelers, one in a Santa Claus outfit and all with face covering, stand in line with their luggage in the departure lounge at Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport in West London
As of midnight on Sunday, flights from the UK to parts of Europe were banned for fear of a new strain of coronavirus that is said to be spreading even more easily than the Covid-19 strain. In the picture Terminal 2 at Heathrow today
Construction of the camp: A woman moved a table in an airport terminal in Hanover last night after 63 people from Great Britain had to stay at the arrival gate overnight as they waited for test results after the German travel ban
A passenger sleeps next to his suitcase in Hanover when dozens of British and German passengers spent a miserable night in the terminal while Europe takes drastic measures against the mutated virus strain in Britain
More than a dozen European countries have suspended flights from the UK, along with a handful of nations outside Europe
Germany is one of more than a dozen European countries that have suspended flights from the UK, while France has also closed the border to trucks, which has sparked fears over cross-channel food supplies – despite France announcing today that it will create a protocol in the Traffic will resume in the next few hours.
In Hanover, airport officials set up camp beds for 63 people who had traveled from Great Britain. One passenger, Manuela Thomys, said "we are being held against our will" and another decided to return to the UK.
"Please help us go!" Thomys said in a video released by Bild that showed a nine-month-old baby among the stranded passengers, which included British and German nationals.
One passenger called it a "scandal" while others called to speak to a lawyer while similar scenes were played out in Berlin this morning with 77 people waiting for test results after arriving from the UK last night.
A German government source said restrictions on air travel from the UK could be adopted by the entire 27-member EU and that the countries were also discussing a joint response on sea, road and rail links.
"Our goal is to prevent the new variant of the virus from entering the region," said the Hanoverian health officer Andreas Kranz to the German news agency DPA.
Ireland has also halted flights and wreaked havoc at Heathrow last night when hundreds of people boarded the last flight to Dublin just before the travel ban came into effect.
Boris Johnson rang the alarm bell for the new virus strain on Saturday as it pushed London and much of the Southeast back into the background and drastically cut Christmas plans for the rest of England.
The infection rate in the UK is up 51 percent in a week, and a new record of 35,928 cases was added on Sunday, increasing to 2.04 million.
The new strain, believed to be 70 percent more transmissible, has spread rapidly in the south of England and has already been discovered in Italy and the Netherlands.
However, UK chief physician Chris Whitty and German health minister Jens Spahn have both said there is no evidence that vaccines against Covid-19 will be rendered ineffective by the new strain.
A WHO spokeswoman said: "Across Europe, where transmission is intense and widespread, countries need to redouble their control and prevention approaches."
Camp beds were set up in the terminal while nurses in protective suits checked out passengers arriving from the UK
Emergency vehicles of the German Red Cross are on the asphalt of Hanover Airport on Sunday after the aircraft's arrival
France said last night it had stopped all travel from the UK for 48 hours and closed the Channel Tunnel and Port of Dover just days before the end of the Brexit transition period.
The office of French Prime Minister Jean Castex said the 48-hour deadline would allow time to coordinate a joint EU response that would ultimately allow the UK to resume travel "with mandatory testing on departure" .
The French authorities will "operationally prepare for the safe resumption of movement from the UK from December 22nd, which will be based on the mandatory provision of tests on departure," Castex said.
The French ban includes freight traffic by road, air, sea or rail, with only unaccompanied containers being allowed to cross the canal. While freight to the UK is allowed, there are fears that shippers will not want to come to the UK for fear of being stranded.
While Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps said the move was "surprising," he said the country is well prepared for disruption due to the unplanned Brexit contingency planning.
"I'm in contact with my counterpart in France and we're doing everything we can to achieve this restart. They even told us that they want to restart the freight forwarders as soon as possible," Shapps told Sky News.
France, Germany, Denmark, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Switzerland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Croatia and Turkey have suspended all flights due to the new load.
Outside of Europe, Canada, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Kuwait, El Salvador, Argentina, Chile and Morocco have all imposed their own travel bans, although the US has not yet taken such a step.
Much of Europe is already at a standstill as high winter infection rates persist in the northern hemisphere, when respiratory diseases tend to thrive.
Germany closed shops and schools last week after a six-week blocking light failed to suppress the second wave, while the Netherlands is also blocked for five weeks through January.
Italy also announced a new restriction regime through January 6, which includes restrictions on people leaving their homes more than once a day, closing unnecessary shops and restricting regional travel.
Hundreds of passengers at London's Heathrow Airport attempted to make the last flight to Dublin before a travel ban on Covid-19 came in at midnight
Ireland, which has seen its own resurgence in some cases, said flights from the UK would be banned for at least 48 hours from midnight last night – causing chaos at Heathrow's Terminal 5.
Crowds had packed into the terminal for an allegedly overbooked British Airways flight operated by Aer Lingus and scheduled to depart for Dublin shortly before the ban.
23-year-old passenger Rachael Scully said the Irish government finally gave the go-ahead for the flight, which was scheduled to depart at 10:30 p.m. and land 15 minutes before the travel ban at midnight.
She wrote on Twitter: “The Irish government has given the go-ahead and we have been processed for a BA flight. Because of the country at 11:45 pm. Screams of joy as soon as the news broke. A Christmas miracle! & # 39;
A British Airways spokesman told MailOnline: "Our teams have been looking after customers while we have been urgently looking for alternative arrangements to get them on their way to Dublin as soon as possible."
However, some Irish tweeted the stranded Heathrow passengers to urge them to remain in custody after the mutant strain of coronavirus was discovered.
One said: "With all due respect, you are traveling from one of the most highly infected regions with a contagious strain of Covid-19 … you are at risk of bringing it to Ireland. Please remember to stay there. It's hard I know & # 39;
Another wrote: “Please reconsider your plans. You risk bringing a more contagious strain of Covid to Ireland.
“Elderly and vulnerable people literally spend Christmas alone because they are afraid to see their families. Don't be selfish, flights from the UK to here are now being stopped for good reason. & # 39;
Ireland has imposed a 48-hour travel ban on non-essential flights from the UK starting at midnight, which includes passengers on both flights and ferries.
However, there is no ban or travel restriction on passengers traveling between the Republic and Northern Ireland.
UK supermarket shelves may be emptied after France banned the entry of UK trucks for 48 hours after the new super variety Covid-19 for 48 hours. Pictured: lorries queue for the port of Dover in Kent
A passenger walks through Fiumicino Airport near Rome, Italy after the Italian government announced that all flights to and from the UK will be suspended over fears of a new strain of coronavirus
Passengers wait at Brussels Airport in Zaventem. Belgium said it suspended the arrival of flights and trains from the UK for 24 hours from midnight
It does so amid growing fears for UK supermarket supply chains after France added British trucks to its travel ban and the port of Dover closed for 48 hours.
Ian Wright, CEO of the Food and Drink Federation, said: & # 39; Today's suspension of escorted freight from the UK to France could seriously disrupt fresh food supplies and UK food and drink exports this Christmas.
“Continental truckers won't want to travel here if they're really afraid of getting stranded. "The government urgently needs to convince the French government to exempt escorted cargo from its ban."
A freight forwarder told the BBC that while trucks are still allowed to travel from France to the UK, he feared that many European drivers would not be ready to make the trip because they feared not coming home for Christmas.
He told the broadcaster: “Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse – disaster after disaster. I fear supermarket supply chains. Many will be reluctant to make the crossing to the UK if they cannot return due to congestion already. & # 39;
The Eurotunnel Le Shuttle announced that the border between Great Britain and France will close at 11 p.m. on Sunday and the last shuttle between Great Britain and France will close at 9.24 p.m.
It came when Eurostar canceled its trains between London, Brussels in Belgium and Amsterdam in the Netherlands from Monday.
Eurostar stated on its website: “Due to the announcement by the French and Belgian governments that the border with Great Britain will close at midnight on Sunday 20th December, we cannot take trains from London to Paris, Brussels, Lille or Amsterdam on any Monday depart December 21st or Tuesday December 22nd.
& # 39; We cannot run trains from Amsterdam, Brussels and Lille to London on these dates either. We can confirm that our trains will continue to run from Paris to London.
"We plan to resume all our trains to and from the UK on Wednesday 23rd December."
A woman walks through Fiumicino Airport near Rome with a suitcase. Italy bans entry to anyone who has been in the UK in the past 14 days, while flights are banned until January 6th
Employees board the last Eurostar train from London to Paris before travel to France is restricted
Commuters at Gare du Nord Eurostar and Thalys stations in Paris, France.
Passengers line up to check-in at Gatwick Airport after Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed last night that the new Covid-19 strain could be up to 70 percent more transmissible than existing strains
Travelers stand in the departure lounge of Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, Netherlands on December 17
Police Scotland will double its presence along the border with England with "high visibility patrols" to deter anyone from breaking Covid's travel ban. However, senior officials are ruling out roadblocks to enforce new restrictions
Police Scotland will but not double its presence along the border with England Set up checkpoints and roadblocks to enforce Nicola Sturgeon's coronavirus travel restrictions, Scotland's chief police officer said today.
Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said he did not consider draconian curbs "appropriate or proportionate" for cross-border travel as he doubled the number of officers in the border areas.
In a statement, the Scottish Police Chief said "high visibility patrols" would instead "deter anyone who might consider violating coronavirus travel restrictions".
Indoor mixing is only allowed on Christmas Day, and most of Scotland will be locked to the highest level from Boxing Day. A "strict travel ban" prevents travel to other parts of the UK.
The Prime Minister cut the Christmas amnesty to one day last night after Boris Johnson slammed London and much of the south-east of England into a brutal new Tier 4 lockdown amid rising coronavirus cases caused by a "mutated" strain of the disease caused.
A “strict travel ban” between Scotland and the rest of the UK remains in place during the Christmas holidays, while indoor mixing is only permitted on Christmas Day. It was planned to relax the rules for five days between December 23rd and 27th.
Stricter level four rules will also apply in mainland Scotland starting Boxing Day, and the school's return date has been postponed to January 11.
The ban in Germany, which, in contrast to France's restrictions, does not include cargo flights, should remain in force at least until December 31, according to the German press agency.
Germany, which holds the rotating EU presidency, convened a special crisis meeting on Monday to coordinate the response of the bloc's 27 member states to the virus news.
The Dutch government added that it is monitoring developments and considering additional measures in relation to other modes of transport.
According to the World Health Organization, the strain has already been identified in Denmark and the Netherlands, while a case has been found in Australia.
The US authorities are "very carefully" examining the spread of viruses in the UK, senior health officials said on Sunday, while pointing out that a travel ban for the UK is not currently in sight.
Moncef Slaoui, chief advisor to the government's Operation Warp Speed vaccination program, told CNN's State of the Union that US officials "don't yet know" whether the variant is present in the country.
"We're examining this very carefully, of course," he said, also at the National Institutes of Health and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
At the moment, he said, no strain of the virus appears to be resistant to the vaccines available.
"It is very unlikely that this particular variant has escaped immunity in the UK," said Slaoui.
The Prime Minister effectively canceled Christmas for around 18 million people in southern England, including London, on Saturday night by placing parts of the country under a brutal new Tier 4 regime.
Under the new Tier 4 rules, non-essential shops such as gyms, cinemas, casinos and hairdressers must remain closed and people are only allowed to meet another person from another household in an outdoor public area.
In the rest of England, Christmas relief was severely curtailed, and households were only allowed to gather for one day – Christmas Day itself – instead of the five days previously planned.
The UK has alerted the World Health Organization that the new variant identified this week appears to be accelerating the spread of Covid-19, stating that it accounts for around 60 percent of cases in the capital.
Viruses mutate regularly, and scientists have found thousands of different mutations among samples of the virus that cause Covid-19.
However, many of these changes don't affect how easily the virus spreads or how severe the symptoms are.
A passenger walks at Fiumicino Airport after the Italian government announced that all flights to and from the UK are suspended over fears of a new strain of coronavirus
Passengers departing Fiumicino Airport near Rome for the Christmas holidays amid the second wave of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic
Germany is also considering banning flights from the UK and South Africa as a "serious option" to prevent the new tribe from spreading in both countries, a source close to the German health ministry said today. Pictured: A BA plane at London City Airport in the British capital (file photo)
Cars are seen parked at Fiumicino Airport after the Italian government announced that all flights to and from the UK would be suspended over fears of a new strain of coronavirus
A passenger walks at Fiumicino Airport after the Italian government announced that all flights to and from the UK are suspended over fears of a new strain of coronavirus
A passenger looks at a flight board at Fiumicino Airport after the Italian government announced that all flights to and from the UK will be suspended over fears of a new strain of coronavirus
Christmas plans remain in tatters as British Airways and Virgin REFUSE issue refunds for Tier 4 passengers for not canceling flights that force millions to reorder trips while struggling to get their money back from travel agents
Christmas plans have remained in tatters amid new Covid curbs as some airlines refuse to reimburse passengers for trips they can no longer take.
Boris Johnson effectively canceled Christmas for nearly 18 million people in London, the southeast and east of England, as the region was locked for two weeks from Sunday.
Nach den neuen Tier 4-Regeln müssen nicht unbedingt erforderliche Geschäfte sowie Fitnessstudios, Kinos, Casinos und Friseure geschlossen bleiben, und die Personen dürfen nur eine andere Person aus einem anderen Haushalt in einem öffentlichen Außenbereich treffen.
Denjenigen in Tier 4 wurde gesagt, sie sollten die Region nicht verlassen, während den Außenstehenden von einem Besuch abgeraten wurde.
British Airways und Virgin Atlantic haben bekannt gegeben, dass sie Passagieren, die ihre Reisen aufgrund der neuen Beschränkungen für Ende des Jahres stornieren, keine Rückerstattung anbieten werden.
Auf dem Twitter-Konto von Virgin Atlantic heißt es: 'Rückerstattungen sind nur für stornierte Flüge zulässig. Wenn Sie direkt bei uns gebucht haben, haben Sie die Möglichkeit, bis zum 31. Dezember 2022 einen neuen Reisedatum zu buchen.
"Wenn Sie bei einem Dritten gebucht haben, wenden Sie sich bitte direkt an diesen, um Ihre Optionen zu erfahren."
Die Kundin von British Airways, Lisa Hunter, twitterte bei der Fluggesellschaft: "Wir sind gerade in Tier 4 umgezogen, haben aber gerade telefonisch erfahren, dass wir keine Rückerstattung für Flüge erhalten können, die über Weihnachten gebucht wurden, da der Flug nicht storniert wird."
„Es ist jetzt illegal, aus Tier 4-Gebieten zu reisen, also kann dies sicher nicht der Fall sein? Heathrow ist in Tier 4! & # 39;
BA antwortete: 'Hallo Lisa, Flüge werden weiterhin durchgeführt, da wesentliche Reisen noch erlaubt sind. Wir befürchten, dass eine vollständige Rückerstattung nur zulässig ist, wenn Ihr Flug storniert wird. & # 39;
Ein Fußgänger geht am 20. Dezember durch eine fast menschenleere Halle am Bahnhof Charing Cross in London
British Airways und Virgin Atlantic haben bekannt gegeben, dass sie Passagieren, die ihre Reisen aufgrund der neuen Beschränkungen für Ende des Jahres stornieren, keine Rückerstattung anbieten werden
Ein BA-Sprecher sagte gegenüber MailOnline: 'Kunden, die nicht reisen können oder dies nicht möchten, können ihre Flüge weiterhin ändern oder einen Gutschein für die zukünftige Verwendung als Teil unserer seit Anfang des Jahres verfügbaren Richtlinie "Buch mit Vertrauen" anfordern Pandemie.
Wenn ein Flug eines Kunden storniert wird, hat er wie immer Anspruch auf eine vollständige Rückerstattung oder einen Gutschein. Wir wenden uns immer an Kunden, deren Flüge betroffen sein könnten, um ihre Optionen zu besprechen. & # 39;
Ein Sprecher von Virgin Atlantic sagte gegenüber MailOnline: '' Wir verstehen die Schwierigkeiten, die Covid-19- und Tier 4-Beschränkungen für einige unserer Kunden darstellen.
'Wenn ein Kunde aus irgendeinem Grund nicht reisen kann, bieten wir so viel Auswahl und Flexibilität wie möglich, um ihn bei der Änderung oder Ergänzung seiner Pläne zu unterstützen. Eine Namensänderung und zwei Gebühren für die Änderung des Datums entfallen für ein neues Reisedatum bis zum 31. Dezember 2022 .
"Wenn ein Flug storniert wird, haben Kunden natürlich Anspruch auf eine volle Rückerstattung in bar."
Die konkurrierende Fluggesellschaft EasyJet sagte, dass sie Rückerstattungen für diejenigen anbieten würde, die zu Hause bleiben.
Ein Sprecher sagte: 'EasyJet plant, seinen aktuellen Flugplan in den kommenden Tagen zu fliegen. Nach der Ankündigung der britischen Regierung, Tier 4-Beschränkungen einzuführen, die Ratschläge gegen Reisen ins Ausland enthalten, müssen einige Kunden möglicherweise jetzt ihre Flüge ändern.
In der Euston Station warten Londoner auf Züge, um Weihnachten außerhalb der Hauptstadt zu verbringen
Betroffene Kunden in Tier 4-Gebieten haben die Möglichkeit, kostenlos auf einen alternativen Flug umzusteigen, einen Gutschein zu erhalten oder eine Rückerstattung zu erhalten. Diese Richtlinie gilt für Flüge bis zum 30. Dezember.
"Alle anderen Kunden können Änderungen an ihrer Buchung vornehmen, ohne dass eine Änderungsgebühr bis zu 14 Tage vor Abflug online über" Buchungen verwalten "unter easyJet.com anfällt."
Letzte Nacht flohen viele Londoner mit dem Zug aus der Hauptstadt, um den neuen Beschränkungen zu entkommen, kurz bevor sie durchsetzbar wurden – aber viele weitere sind jetzt mit Tickets für Weihnachtsbesuche festgefahren, deren Verwendung ihnen jetzt verboten ist.
Welche? consumer rights expert Adam French said: 'These new restrictions will cause massive travel disruption and chaos, leaving many peoples' festive plans in tatters.
'If you've forked out on money for a train ticket and have to stay put you should be able to cancel the trip and get your money back.
'Rail operators should be as accommodating as possible by allowing passengers the flexibility to use tickets or issuing them refunds if they can't travel at another time.'
What are the new Tier 4 rules?
The Tier 4 rules are essentially the same as the blanket bans England was under in November.
Unnecessary retail stores will have to close, as will recreational facilities and personal care products such as hairdressers.
However, places of worship can remain open.
People on other levels are advised not to go to the areas with the highest bracket, while level 4 residents are not allowed to stay in lower infection sites.
Restrictions which forced millions of people across the UK to tear up their Christmas plans may have to remain for 'the next couple of months', Health Secretary Matt Hancock has suggested.
'What is really important is that people not only follow them (the new rules) but everybody in a Tier 4 area acts as if you have the virus to stop spreading it to other people,' Mr Hancock told Sky News's Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme.
Scientists on the Government's New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) have concluded the VUI 202012/01 mutant strain, identified by the Public Health England laboratories at Porton Down, is spreading more quickly.
The Prime Minister was advised of the group's conclusions at a meeting with ministers on the Covid O Committee on Friday evening, and the new regulations were signed off by Cabinet before Saturday's announcement scuppered many people's plans to see family for Christmas.
'We know with this new variant you can catch it more easily from a small amount of the virus being present,' Mr Hancock said.
'All of the different measures we have in place, we need more of them to control the spread of the new variant than we did to control the spread of the old variant. That is the basic problem.
'We know that because we know that in November that in the areas where this new variant started, in Kent, the cases carried on rising whereas in the rest of the country the November lockdown worked very effectively.
'It is an enormous challenge, until we can get the vaccine rolled out to protect people. This is what we face over the next couple of months.'
In the rest of England, Christmas easing has been severely curtailed, with households allowed to gather for just one day – Christmas Day itself – rather than the five days previously planned.
Scotland and Wales are also restricting Christmas 'bubbles' to a single day, while people in Northern Ireland have been asked to consider forming a bubble for Christmas Day only.
Wales has also mirrored the Tier 4 restrictions in England by bringing forward Alert Level 4 measures to Sunday, while Scotland has said its travel ban with the rest of the UK will now remain in place right throughout the festive period.
People go through barriers to catch trains at Paddington Station in London. The introduction of the new tier seeks to curb a new more infectious strain of the virus, Boris Johnson explained during a press briefing on Saturday
People wait on the concourse at Paddington Station in London on Saturday as people scramble to get out of London before Tier 4 rules come into power at midnight
The new rules creating a Tier 4 in England went into effect on Sunday at 7am and will be presented to Parliament on Monday, which is on recess.
The statutory instrument was made at 6am on Sunday, and must be approved by both the House of Commons and House of Lords within 28 days, otherwise the change to the law is reversed as per a process known as the 'made affirmative procedure'.
Which parts of the country are in Tier 4?
Surrey (without Waverley)
The boroughs of Gosport, Havant, Portsmouth, Rother and Hastings
All 32 London boroughs and the City of London.
Bedford, Central Bedfordshire, Milton Keynes, Luton, Peterborough
Essex (except Colchester, Uttlesford and Tendring).
At a No 10 news conference on Saturday, Mr Johnson said he was taking the actions with a 'heavy heart', but the scientific evidence had left him with no choice.
The announcements sparked a rush at London train stations and there were no online tickets for multiple London train stations including Paddington, Kings Cross and Euston on Saturday at 7pm.
Footage posted on social media showed large crowds at St Pancras train station, waiting to board trains to Leeds.
The Netherlands is banning flights from the UK for at least the rest of the year in an attempt to make sure the new strain does not reach its shores.
It said it will assess 'with other European Union nations the possibilities to contain the import of the virus from the United Kingdom'.
The announcements came as a hammer blow to many businesses – particularly retailers hoping to pick up some pre-Christmas sales at the end of a torrid year in which they had faced repeated orders to close.
There was also fury among some Conservative MPs after weeks of growing backbench unrest over the return of more and more stringent controls.
Mark Harper, the leader of the Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, demanded the recall of Parliament so MPs could debate and vote on the changes for England.
British Medical Association council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul however welcomed the announcement which, he said, would save lives and help health services cope with 'incredible demand'.