Race to reach home for Christmas: Huge queues at UK airports with 200 flights cancelled as Russia and India join growing list of nations to bar UK travellers - while Ireland lays on planes to jet citizens home

 There was chaos at airports across Britain today with more than 30,000 travellers stranded and hundreds of flights cancelled as more countries move to isolate the UK in a bid to contain a mutant strain of coronavirus. 

A growing number of countries are banning flights from the UK in a bid to stop the new Covid variant crossing their borders, sparking panic at terminals across the continent. 

The move has led to queues of people anxiously waiting for Covid tests at Heathrow Airport in west London where more than 80 departures have been grounded so far today - more than half of which are on British Airways - with that number continually rising as more countries ban incoming flights. 

At least 200 flights to Europe have been cancelled, with the routes affected including Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Geneva and Paris and long-haul flights to Russia and India. 

A spokesman for Heathrow told Mailonline that only passengers with a ticket to a destination that has not yet banned UK arrivals will be allowed in the airport. 

The spokesman added: 'If you don't have a ticket, or are travelling to a country with an active ban in place, do not come to the airport. We do not want the airport flooded or similar scenes that were seen at St Pancras on Saturday night.'

Heathrow is not testing people arriving in the UK from other countries - because the government has not yet made it a policy. 

The spokesman added: 'We've been pushing for testing since April but still don't have the go-ahead from the government. As soon as they're ready to catch up, we are ready to go.' 

But Ireland's Foreign Affairs Minister confirmed the Department of Transport is looking at organising a limited number of flights today and tomorrow to accommodate those who need to return to Ireland for Christmas. 

The news will come as a shot in the arm to Irish residents left stranded in the UK, after the Irish Government issued a 48 hour travel ban on anyone entering the country from the UK. 

British passengers were left stranded in German airports last night and confined in a terminal until they could test negative for Covid-19 after Europe moved to seal off the UK because of its alarming new strain of the disease. 

Nurses in hazmat suits were screening the last arrivals from Britain on Sunday night as furious passengers were told they would have to sleep in the same room and wait until morning to leave the airport. 

The PM will chair a meeting of Cobra this morning after the travel bans spread beyond Europe with Canada, Chile and Argentina also cutting off the UK, although the United States has yet to do so. 


Germany is one of more than a dozen European countries to have closed down flights from the UK, while France has also closed the border to lorries, sparking fears for cross-Channel food supplies - although France said today that it would establish a protocol 'in the next few hours' for traffic to resume. 

In Hanover, airport officials set up campbeds for 63 people who arrived from Britain, with one passenger, Manuela Thomys, saying that 'we are being held against our will' and another deciding to turn back to the UK. 

Heathrow Airport's terminal 2 was very busy this morning, with passengers queuing to get out of the UK

Heathrow Airport's terminal 2 was very busy this morning, with passengers queuing to get out of the UK

Travellers, one dressed in a Father Christmas outfit and all wearing face coverings, queue with their luggage in the departures hall at Terminal 2 of Heathrow Airport in west London

Travellers, one dressed in a Father Christmas outfit and all wearing face coverings, queue with their luggage in the departures hall at Terminal 2 of Heathrow Airport in west London

As of midnight on Sunday flights from the UK to parts of Europe were banned amid fears over a new strain of coronavirus said to be spread even easier than the Covid-19 strain. Pictured, terminal 2 at Heathrow today

As of midnight on Sunday flights from the UK to parts of Europe were banned amid fears over a new strain of coronavirus said to be spread even easier than the Covid-19 strain. Pictured, terminal 2 at Heathrow today 

Setting up camp: A woman moves a table in a Hanover airport terminal last night after 63 people arriving from Britain had to stay at the arrivals gate overnight as they awaited test results following Germany's travel ban

Setting up camp: A woman moves a table in a Hanover airport terminal last night after 63 people arriving from Britain had to stay at the arrivals gate overnight as they awaited test results following Germany's travel ban 

A passenger sleeps next to their suitcase in Hanover as dozens of British and German passengers spent a miserable night in the terminal as Europe takes drastic action over the mutant virus strain in the UK

A passenger sleeps next to their suitcase in Hanover as dozens of British and German passengers spent a miserable night in the terminal as Europe takes drastic action over the mutant virus strain in the UK

More than a dozen European countries have shut down flights from the UK, along with a handful of nations outside Europe 


'Please help us leave!' Thomys said in a video published by Bild, which showed a nine-month-old baby among the stranded passengers who included British and German nationals. 

One passenger called it a 'scandal' with others demanding to speak to a lawyer, while similar scenes unfolded in Berlin where 77 people were awaiting test results this morning after arriving from Britain last night.   

A German government source said restrictions on air travel from Britain could be adopted by the entire 27-member EU and that countries were also discussing a joint response over sea, road and rail links. 

'Our aim is to prevent the new variant of the virus from entering the region,' Hanover health official Andreas Kranz explained to German news wire DPA. 


Ireland has also stopped flights, causing chaos at Heathrow last night as hundreds of people scrambled onto the last flight to Dublin moments before the travel ban took effect.  

Boris Johnson sounded the alarm bell over the new strain of the virus on Saturday, when he put London and much of the South East back into lockdown and drastically scaled back Christmas plans for the rest of England.

The UK's infection rate has surged by 51 per cent in the space of a week, and Sunday saw a new all-time record of 35,928 cases added to the tally, taking the total to 2.04million.   

Believed to be 70 per cent more transmissible, the new strain has been spreading rapidly in the south of England and has already been detected in Italy and the Netherlands. 

However, Britain's chief medical adviser Chris Whitty and German health minister Jens Spahn have both said there is no sign that vaccines against Covid-19 will be rendered ineffective by the new strain.  

A spokeswoman for the WHO said that 'across Europe, where transmission is intense and widespread, countries need to redouble their control and prevention approaches.'

Campbeds were set up in the terminal while nurses in hazmat suits were screening the passengers who arrived from Britain

Campbeds were set up in the terminal while nurses in hazmat suits were screening the passengers who arrived from Britain 

German Red Cross emergency vehicles stand on the tarmac of the Hanover airport late on Sunday after the plane arrived

German Red Cross emergency vehicles stand on the tarmac of the Hanover airport late on Sunday after the plane arrived 

France said last night it was stopping all travel from Britain for 48 hours, shuttering the Channel Tunnel and the Port of Dover just days before the end of the Brexit transition period. 

French PM Jean Castex's office said the 48-hour period would offer time to coordinate a joint EU response that would ultimately allow travel from the UK to resume 'with compulsory testing on departure'. 

Authorities in France will 'prepare operationally for the safe resumption of movement from the UK from December 22 onwards, which will be based on the compulsory provision of tests on departure,' Mr Castex said.  

The French ban includes 'goods transport by road, air, sea or rail', with only unaccompanied containers allowed to cross the Channel. While cargo is allowed into Britain, there are fears that hauliers will not want to come to the UK for fear of being stranded. 

While transport secretary Grant Shapps said the move was 'surprising', he said the country was well prepared for disruption because of no-deal Brexit contingency planning. 

'I'm in touch with my opposite number in France and we're doing everything we can to get that restarted, in fact they've said to us they want to restart the hauliers as quickly as possible,' Mr Shapps told Sky News. 

France, Germany, Denmark, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Switzerland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Croatia and Turkey have all moved to stop flights because of the new strain. 

Outside 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 made such a move.    

Much of Europe is already in lockdown as high infection rates continue in the Northern Hemisphere winter, when respiratory diseases tend to flourish. 

Germany shut down shops and schools last week after a six-week 'lockdown light' failed to suppress the second wave, while the Netherlands is also under a five-week lockdown until January.   

Italy also announced a new regime of restrictions until January 6 that included limits on people leaving their homes more than once a day, closing non-essential shops and curbs on regional travel. 


Hundreds of passengers at London's Heathrow Airport attempted to make the last flight to Dublin before a Covid-19 travel ban set in at midnight

Hundreds of passengers at London's Heathrow Airport attempted to make the last flight to Dublin before a Covid-19 travel ban set in at midnight

Ireland, which has seen its own resurgence in cases, said flights from Britain would be banned for at least 48 hours starting from midnight last night - leading to chaos at Heathrow's Terminal 5.  

Crowds of people had packed into the terminal for a reportedly overbooked British Airways flight, operated by Aer Lingus, which was scheduled to take off for Dublin just ahead of the ban. 

Passenger Rachael Scully, 23, said the Irish Government eventually gave the 'green light' for the flight which was set to leave at 10.30pm and due to land with 15 minutes to spare before the travel ban at midnight.

She wrote on Twitter: 'Irish gov have given the green light and we've been processed for a BA flight. Due to land at 23:45. Woops of joy once the news got out. A Christmas miracle!' 

A British Airways spokesman told MailOnline: 'Our teams looked after customers while we urgently looked into alternative arrangements to get them on their way to Dublin as quickly as possible.'   

However some Irish people tweeted the stranded Heathrow passengers to urge them to stay put following the discovery of the mutant coronavirus strain. 

One said: 'With all due respect guys, you are traveling from one of highest infected regions with a more infectious strain of Covid-19... You guys run the risk of bringing it to #Ireland. Please consider staying put. It's hard I know.'

Another wrote: 'Pls rethink your plans. You risk bringing a more contagious strain of Covid to Ireland. 

'Elderly and vulnerable people are literally spending Xmas alone, inside afraid of seeing their families. Don't be selfish, flights from the UK to here are now being stopped for good reason [sic].' 

Ireland has imposed a 48-hour travel ban on non-essential flights from Britain from midnight which includes passengers on flights and ferries. 

However there will be no ban or travel restrictions for passengers travelling between the Republic and Northern Ireland.  

Britain's supermarket shelves may be emptied after France bans British lorries coming into the country for 48 hours following the new Covid-19 super strain. Pictured: Lorries queue to enter the port of Dover in Kent

Britain's supermarket shelves may be emptied after France bans British lorries coming into the country for 48 hours following the new Covid-19 super strain. Pictured: Lorries queue to enter the port of Dover in Kent 

A passenger walks through Fiumicino airport, near Rome, Italy, after the Italian government announced all flights to and from the UK will be suspended over fears of a new strain of the coronavirus

A passenger walks through Fiumicino airport, near Rome, Italy, after the Italian government announced all flights to and from the UK will be suspended over fears of a new strain of the coronavirus

Passengers wait at Brussels Airport in Zaventem. Belgium said it was suspending flight and train arrivals from Britain from midnight for 24 hours

Passengers wait at Brussels Airport in Zaventem. Belgium said it was suspending flight and train arrivals from Britain from midnight for 24 hours

It comes amid growing fears for Britain's supermarket supply chains after France included British lorries in its ban on travel, leading the Port of Dover to close for 48 hours.  

Food and Drink Federation CEO Ian Wright said: 'Tonight's suspension of accompanied freight traffic from the UK to France has the potential to cause serious disruption to UK Christmas fresh food supplies and exports of UK food and drink.

'Continental truckers will not want to travel here if they have a real fear of getting marooned. 'The Government must very urgently persuade the French government to exempt accompanied freight from its ban.'

One road haulage boss told the BBC that while lorries are still allowed from France to the UK, he feared that many European drivers would be unwilling to make the trip fearing they could not get home for Christmas. 

He told the broadcaster: 'Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse – disaster upon disaster. I fear for supermarket supply chains. Many will be reluctant to make the crossing to UK if they can't get back given there is already congestion.'   

The Eurotunnel Le Shuttle said that the UK-France border will close at 11pm on Sunday, and the last shuttle between the UK and France was at 9.24pm.

It came as as Eurostar cancelled its trains between London, Brussels in Belgium and Amsterdam in the Netherlands, starting from Monday. 

Eurostar stated on its website: 'Due to announcements from the French and Belgian governments that borders with the UK will close at midnight on Sunday 20th December, we are unable to run any trains from London to Paris, Brussels, Lille or Amsterdam on either Monday 21st December or Tuesday 22nd December.

'We are also unable to run trains from Amsterdam, Brussels and Lille to London on these dates. We can confirm that our trains will continue to operate from Paris to London.

'The plan is to resume all our train services to and from the UK on Wednesday 23rd December.'  

A woman walks with a suitcase through Fiumicino airport, near Rome. Italy is prohibiting entry to the country by anyone who had been in the UK in the last 14 days while flights are banned until January 6

A woman walks with a suitcase through Fiumicino airport, near Rome. Italy is prohibiting entry to the country by anyone who had been in the UK in the last 14 days while flights are banned until January 6

Staff board the last Eurostar train from London to Paris ahead of travel restrictions into France

Staff board the last Eurostar train from London to Paris ahead of travel restrictions into France 

Commuters at the Gare du Nord Eurostar and Thalys terminals train station in Paris, France.

Commuters at the Gare du Nord Eurostar and Thalys terminals train station in Paris, France. 

Passengers queue for check-in at Gatwick Airport after Prime Minister Boris Johnson last night claimed that the new strain of Covid-19 might be up to 70 per cent more transmissible than existing strains

Passengers queue for check-in at Gatwick Airport after Prime Minister Boris Johnson last night claimed that the new strain of Covid-19 might be up to 70 per cent more transmissible than existing strains

Travellers stand in the departure hall of Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, Netherlands on December 17

Travellers stand in the departure hall of Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, Netherlands on December 17


The ban in Germany, which unlike France's restrictions does not include cargo flights, is reportedly set to remain in place until at least December 31, according to the Deutsche Presse-Agentur. 

Germany, which holds the rotating EU presidency, also called a special crisis meeting on Monday to co-ordinate the response to the virus news among the bloc's 27 member states.

The Dutch government added that it is monitoring developments and is considering additional measures regarding other modes of transport.

According to the World Health Organisation, the strain has already been identified in Denmark and the Netherlands, while one case was found in Australia. 

US authorities are looking 'very carefully' into the virus variant spreading in the United Kingdom, top health officials said Sunday, while indicating that a ban on UK travel was not currently in the cards.

Moncef Slaoui, chief advisor to the government's Operation Warp Speed vaccine program, told CNN's 'State of the Union' that US officials 'don't know yet' if the variant is present in the country.

'We are, of course... looking very carefully into this,' including at the National Institutes of Health and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,' he said.

At the moment, he said, no strain of the virus appears to be resistant to the vaccines available.

'This particular variant in the UK, I think, is very unlikely to have escaped the vaccine immunity,' Slaoui said. 

The PM effectively cancelled Christmas for around 18 million people in southern England, including London, on Saturday night by moving swathes of the country into a brutal new Tier 4 regime. 

Under the new Tier 4 rules non-essential shops – as well as gyms, cinemas, casinos and hairdressers – have to stay shut and people are limited to meeting one other person from another household in an outdoor public space.   

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.             

The UK has alerted the World Health Organisation that the new variant identified this week appears to be accelerating the spread of Covid-19, saying it accounted for some 60 per cent of the capital's cases.

Viruses mutate regularly, and scientists have found thousands different of mutations among samples of the virus causing Covid-19. 

But many of these changes have no effect on how easily the virus spreads or how severe symptoms are.    


A passenger walks at Fiumicino airport after the Italian government announced all flights to and from the UK will be suspended over fears of a new strain of the coronavirus

A passenger walks at Fiumicino airport after the Italian government announced all flights to and from the UK will be suspended over fears of a new strain of the coronavirus

Passengers departing for the Christmas holidays amid the second wave of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, at Fiumicino airport, near Rome

Passengers departing for the Christmas holidays amid the second wave of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, at Fiumicino airport, near Rome

Germany is also considering banning flights from the UK and South Africa 'as a serious option' to prevent the spread of the new strain circulating in the two countries, a source close to the German health ministry said today. Pictured: A BA plane at London City Airport in the UK's capital (file photo)

Germany is also considering banning flights from the UK and South Africa 'as a serious option' to prevent the spread of the new strain circulating in the two countries, a source close to the German health ministry said today. Pictured: A BA plane at London City Airport in the UK's capital (file photo)


Cars are seen parked at Fiumicino airport after the Italian government announced all flights to and from the UK will be suspended over fears of a new strain of the coronavirus

Cars are seen parked at Fiumicino airport after the Italian government announced all flights to and from the UK will be suspended over fears of a new strain of the coronavirus

A passenger walks at Fiumicino airport after the Italian government announced all flights to and from the UK will be suspended over fears of a new strain of the coronavirus

A passenger walks at Fiumicino airport after the Italian government announced all flights to and from the UK will be suspended over fears of a new strain of the coronavirus

A passenger looks at a flight board at Fiumicino airport after the Italian government announced all flights to and from the UK will be suspended over fears of a new strain of the coronavirus

A passenger looks at a flight board at Fiumicino airport after the Italian government announced all flights to and from the UK will be suspended over fears of a new strain of the coronavirus


Race to reach home for Christmas: Huge queues at UK airports with 200 flights cancelled as Russia and India join growing list of nations to bar UK travellers - while Ireland lays on planes to jet citizens home Race to reach home for Christmas: Huge queues at UK airports with 200 flights cancelled as Russia and India join growing list of nations to bar UK travellers - while Ireland lays on planes to jet citizens home Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 06:29 Rating: 5

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