VIENNA – Austria is banning direct flights and tourist visits from Britain because of the prevalence of a highly infections coronavirus variant first found in India, the health ministry said on Tuesday.
Britain was added overnight to Austria's list of "virus variant states", joining Brazil, India and South Africa, from which arrivals are only allowed in a limited number of cases, the ministry said in a statement.
"Essentially, only Austrian citizens and people who are resident or habitually stay in Austria may enter the country," it said, adding that entry would also be allowed on humanitarian grounds or for visits in the national interest.
While the immigration rules take effect on Tuesday, the ban on direct flights will go into force on 1 June, it added. The statement referred specifically to the World Health Organisation and Public Health England having classified the B.1.617.2 variant first found in India as a "variant of concern".
Coronavirus infections in Britain have been rising, but the overall incidence is still low, and the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 fell last week to its lowest since September. Clusters of the B.1.617.2 variant are, however, growing quickly.
Austria's move follows a similar step by Germany.