ROYAL Mail has suspended postal services to Europe and other countries as the new Covid strain causes chaos just days before Christmas.
The postal service added Canada, Turkey and several European countries including France, Germany and Spain to its "on suspension" list, with immediate effect.
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The strain's alarming spread prompted Prime Minister Boris Johnson over the weekend to scale back the relaxation of lockdown measures over Christmas for millions across the UK.
Countries including France, India, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and Russia have suspended travel from Britain and closed the border after the government announced a new variant of the coronavirus appeared to be spreading far faster than previous kinds.
Royal Mail also said on its website that it could not provide a guarantee that items posted on December 23 would reach before Christmas due to the new restrictions in England.
In the run up to Christmas the Royal Mail usually experiences its busiest time of the year but due to the new Covid variant bosses have warned to expect significant disruption.
A Royal Mail spokesman said: “This is a fast-moving situation and we are monitoring things on an hourly basis.
"We are working to keep as many international mail services running as possible given the current restrictions around air, road, ferry and train movements from the UK.
"Royal Mail has temporarily suspended all mail services to Europe, with the exception of the Republic of Ireland.
"We are keeping the situation under close review. Customers should check our website for regular updates.”
Parcelforce Worldwide has also announced it was suspending services to Europe, as well as Turkey and Canada due to the lack of available transport options.
WHICH COUNTRIES HAVE BANNED FLIGHTS FROM BRITAIN?
The news of the mutant strain of coronavirus spreading in the UK prompted countries around the world to introduce bans on travellers from Britain.
- Argentina: After a flight arrives Monday, all links with the UK will be shut.
- Austria: Flights have been banned from midnight on Tuesday.
- Belgium: Flights have been banned for a further 24 hours after a one-day suspension was introduced from midnight on Sunday.
- Bulgaria: Flights suspended until January 31.
- Canada: Justin Trudeau has tweeted that flights have been temporarily suspended for 72 hours from Sunday night. Brits who arrived on Sunday will be subject to extra screenings and other “advanced measures”.
- Chile: Flights suspended to the UK from Tuesday. Anyone who has travelled to Britain in the past two weeks and does not have Chilean residency will also be banned.
- Colombia: All flights to and from the UK have been suspended from midnight Monday until further notice.
- Croatia: Flights suspended until January 31.
- B Flights suspended from Monday.
- El Salvador: Anyone who has traveled to South Africa or the UK in the past 30 days will be denied entry.
- Estonia: Flights suspended until January 1.
- Finland: Flights have been suspended for two weeks.
- France: All travel to the UK was halted for 48 hours on Sunday night, including freight, rail, ferry and air networks. Only unaccompanied freight will be allowed through. Eurostar and Eurotunnel services are not running, while the port at Dover is also closed.
- Germany: An initial air ban has been brought in until December 31, although authorities are working to extend this into January. Freight is exempt from the ban.
- Hong Kong: All arrivals from the UK in the last 14 days will have their quarantine extended, while new arrivals will be banned from midnight Tuesday.
- India: All flights from the UK will be banned until midnight on December 31. Anyone who transits through Britain will automatically be tested on arrival in India.
- Iran: Flights suspended for two weeks.
- Ireland: Flights have been banned for 48 hours from midnight on Sunday. The 310 mile long land border remains open at this time
- Israel: All travellers from Britain, South Africa and Denmark have been banned entry. Israeli citizens returning from these places will be subject to tough quarantine, according to Benjamin Natanyahu.
- Italy: Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza said he has signed a decree "which blocks flights from Great Britain and prohibits entry into Italy of people who have stayed there during the last 14 days".
- Jamaica: All incoming flights from the UK are banned until January 4.
- Jordan: All flights between the kingdom and the UK are suspended until January 3.
- Kuwait: Banned flights from the UK and added Britain to its list of ‘high-risk nations’.
- Latvia: Flights suspended until January 1. Bus and ferry services have also been shut down.
- Lithuania: Flights suspended until January 1.
- Macedonia: Flights suspended until January 31.
- Malta: All flights suspended to and from the UK from midnight on Tuesday.
- Mauritius: Travellers from the UK and South Africa will be banned from midnight, with anyone travelling to those countries in the past 14 days will also be denied entry.
- Morocco: All flights to the UK banned from Sunday.
- Netherlands: All air and ferry services have been stopped until January 1 as one new case of the mutant strain has been found in the Netherlands.
- Norway: All flights suspended for two days.
- Oman: All borders have closed for two weeks.
- Peru: All flights to and from Europe have been suspended for two weeks President Francisco Sagasti announced.
- Poland: All those travelling from the UK will be denied entry from midnight Monday.
- Portugal: Lisbon has announced its ban in coordination with Spain, it's only neighbour by land.
- Romania: Flights banned for two weeks.
- Russia: The Kremlin have suspended air travel between Russia and the UK for a week.
- Saudi Arabia: All borders have closed for one week. Arrivals from Europe over the weekend will be made to quarantine for two weeks and will be tested.
- Spain: Madrid has announced that all non-residents and citizens entering from the UK will be banned from Tuesday. Controls on entry will also be tightened in Gibraltar.
- Sweden: Travellers from the UK and Denmark have been banned from midnight Monday for an initial 48 hours, although Swedish citizens will be exempted.
- Switzerland: Flights have been suspended until further notice. Arrivals from South Africa are now also banned and ordered into quarantine, although Swiss authorities announced they believe the mutated virus is already circulating in the country, but has yet to show up on tests.
- Turkey: Flights from the UK, along with South Africa, Denmark and the Netherlands have been suspended.
"We are keeping the situation under close review. Customers should check our website for updates.”
A note on Royal Mail's international service bulletin read: "We're working with our airline and postal/courier partners across the globe to maintain services, however delays should be expected.
“Many countries have implemented special measure to combat the spread of Coronavirus Covid-19, especially for signature service to maintain social distancing. The number of countries we can access is changing daily."
The news of the new mutant Covid strain has caused 40 countries to ban flights from the UK to prevent its spread.
Due to the ban, hundreds of Brits have been left stranded at airports.
The ban in Germany left more than 60 Brits stranded and sleeping on camp beds at an airport in Hanover while screening was carried out.
Dover’s ferry terminal was closed on Sunday evening to all accompanied traffic on Sunday evening after France closed its border for 48 hours, creating queues of lorries miles-long, as they waited to be able to cross the English Channel.
Royal Mail's statement added: "Freight lorries cannot cross by sea or through the Eurotunnel and the Port of Dover has closed to outbound traffic. There are many other countries taking similar measures, so we expect significant disruptions to our international services.
"All Mainland European exports and imports are impacted, and, Canada and Turkey have cancelled flights to and from the UK and we expect other countries to follow.”
Royal Mail has also made major changes to its planned domestic schedule over Christmas.
The group has suspended their delivery guarantee, which would have ensured post would be delivered before Christmas if they were posted on December 23.
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