KLM, the Dutch subsidiary of Air France KLM, will halt all its 270 weekly long-haul flights to the Netherlands from Friday January 22 due to new COVID-19 rules that have been imposed by the Dutch government, a spokesperson for the airline has said.
On Wednesday January 20, the Dutch government proposed the first nationwide curfew since World War Two and a ban on flights from South Africa and Britain in its toughest moves yet to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the Netherlands.
The flight ban, which Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte Rutte said also will apply to all South American countries, will begin on Saturday January 23.
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"This is a very tough measure, but we are at a crossroads," Rutte said in a televised news conference. "The British variant [of COVID-19] doesn't leave us with an alternative."
The government said it will also require all international travellers arriving by airplane or boat to provide proof of a second negative COVID-19 rapid test, taken just before departure. It had already required a negative test taken within 72 hours of travel.
KLM said that, in response to the requirement, it will halt its 270 weekly long-haul flights as well an undetermined number of European flights to the Netherlands from Friday January 22.
"Based on the information we have, this will also count for crew members," KLM spokesperson Gerrie Brand said. "We cannot take the risk that crew members get stuck abroad, so we have decided to halt all long-haul flights."
COVID-19 infections in the Netherlands have decreased steadily in the past three weeks, but health authorities say that the new variants of virus will lead to a new surge by next month if social distancing measures are not tightened.
The government currently has a caretaker status, as Rutte handed his resignation to King Willem-Alexander on Friday January 15 following a damning report on his cabinet's handling of childcare subsidies.
Rutte has said that he will remain to take decisions on COVID-19 policies until a new government is formed after the March 17 elections, seeking broad support for measures from both coalition and opposition parties.