France announced a temporary ban on travel and accompanying shipping on Sunday night, a potential disaster for UK exporters that rely on trade with Europe. Border closures have exacerbated delays in the run-up to Christmas, with trucks supporting from the port of Dover in southeast England, a major transit point for carriers.
Worse, the move sparked concerns that European exporters were reluctant to send goods to the UK, for fear of not being able to return. The timing of the restrictions, just days before Christmas and the end of the Brexit transition period, has raised concerns about food and medicine shortages in the UK at a critical time.
In the United Kingdom, Kent Police have closed sections of the M20 in England to “avoid suffocation” in the area around the Eurotunnel. Operation “Stack” – an emergency plan that allows a portion of the highway to be designated for the parked trucks – has been put into place.
France said it was working on implementing a European health protocol that would allow shipping to start again. “In the next few hours at the European level, we will put in place a robust health protocol so that flows from the UK can resume,” State Minister for Transport Jean-Baptiste Djebbari wrote on Twitter on Monday. “Our priority is to protect our citizens and our citizens,” he added.
Road transport industry representatives have called on the UK government to publish rapid tests for truck drivers to restore confidence in French authorities that they are Covid-free. Alex Fitch, Director of Public Policy for Logistics UK, said, “At the moment, there will be concern about backing up if it goes on for more than 48 hours because ultimately there will be a situation where the exit delays will be very significant.” BBC Radio 4.
British supermarkets said stores were fine nowadays. Sainsbury’s has warned that a shortage of perishable goods could start to appear in the coming days, if the situation is not resolved quickly. A Sainsbury’s spokesperson told PA Media: “All the products for the Great British Christmas Brunch are already in the country and we have a lot of them. If nothing changes, we’ll start to see gaps in the coming days in lettuce, some salad leaves, cauliflower, cauliflower and citrus fruits.” – They are all imported from the continent at this time of year. “
By Monday, dozens of countries across Europe, the Middle East and the Americas had announced travel bans on the United Kingdom. Other countries, such as Greece and Spain, have imposed restrictions that require travelers from Britain to undergo tests for the Corona virus or quarantine.
In South America, Argentina, Chile and Colombia have stopped direct flights to and from the United Kingdom, and El Salvador has banned anyone from entering the country from Britain.
Hong Kong became the first place in Asia to restrict British travelers on Monday, halting all passenger flights from the United Kingdom from Tuesday and banning all passengers who have stayed in the UK for more than two hours in the past 14 days from arriving in the city.
In the Middle East, flights from the United Kingdom were banned in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel.
Across Europe, countries have closed their borders to travelers from the United Kingdom, including the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Italy, France, Sweden, Luxembourg, the Republic of Ireland, Estonia and the Czech Republic.
Monday’s emergency meeting of UK government officials is expected to focus on international restrictions, and “in particular the steady flow of freight to and from the UK”, a spokesperson for the prime minister told CNN. The spokesman added, “Other meetings will be held this evening and tomorrow morning to ensure that strong plans are in place.”
On Monday, British Transport Secretary Grant Shaps tried to assuage concerns about food supply disruptions, saying that the Eurotnnel tunnel from Dover to Calais accounts for only about 20% of the goods entering and outside the country.
“It is not the mainstay,” he said. “Most of the goods go in and out of unaccompanied containers and these will continue to flow.”
The travel restrictions came on the heels of the British government announcement on Saturday that the novel coronavirus variant appears to be spreading more quickly.
At a hastily held press conference on Saturday, Johnson said the new variant appeared to be “up to 70% more transmissible”, and was responsible for a significant increase in cases in London and southeast England. And those areas were placed under strict restrictions.
The tighter lockdown was the latest disruption of the pandemic-overwhelmed holiday period. Governments from Asia to Europe have tightened social distancing rules and re-enforced lockdown measures to counter the surge in Covid-19 cases. The discovery of the new variable has deepened concerns that the major restrictions will now last long into the new year.
Outside of the UK, the new variant has already been identified in Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands and Australia.
Australian health authorities said two cases of the variant were found in a managed quarantine in Sydney, while the Italian Ministry of Health on Sunday reported that a patient had contracted the variant and was placed under isolation in Rome.
All viruses mutate over time and new variants are common, including the new Corona virus. A variant similar to the one identified in the United Kingdom has been identified in South Africa, where scientists say it is spreading rapidly along the coastal areas of the country.
What do we know about the new alternative?
England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, warned on Saturday that the new British variant “could spread more quickly” and was responsible for 60% of new infections in the capital, which nearly doubled in the past week alone.
Witty cautioned that there is currently no evidence to indicate that the new variant is more lethal, or that it will inactivate newly approved vaccines. However, a virus that spreads more easily could lead to more cases, which in turn could lead to more hospitalizations and possibly more deaths. Even with a vaccine, this could make the spread of the virus less controllable.
Back-tracking using genetic evidence indicates that the new British variant appeared in September and then traded at very low levels in the population through mid-November, according to Public Health England (PHE).
“The increase in cases associated with the new variant first appeared in late November when PHE was investigating why infection rates were not declining in Kent despite national restrictions. We then discovered a group linked to this variable is spreading rapidly in London and Essex,” the agency said.
Several experts suggested that this new variant could have been amplified due to the superspreader event; The mutation could somehow cause it to spread more easily without causing more serious disease; Or it might be a coincidence.
The agency said that scientists at EPH have not yet identified the exact mechanism for the potential increase in transmission, although a mutation in the spike protein, a part of the virus that attaches itself to host cells, could increase its transmissibility.
CNN’s Amy and Woodies, Amy Cassidy, Fanny Wang, and Stephanie Hallas all contributed to this report