The UK is in crisis talks as France closes borders over virus fears

London (AFP) – Trucks waiting in and out of Britain are backed for miles and stranded at airports on Monday as several countries imposed strict travel restrictions due to concerns about a new strain of the Coronavirus that is spreading in southeast England.

Countries around the world have halted air travel to the UK while France has banned trucks from entering for 48 hours while the new variant is being evaluated. On Monday, however, there were growing hopes that France would allow traffic to flow again, as truck drivers have to run rapid tests for the coronavirus upon arrival.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will chair the government’s emergency committee meeting later on Monday amid growing concerns over new restrictions that could lead to food shortages if not rolled back soon. The government has already urged not to travel to the southeastern Kent County, where there are many ports.

Most of the perishable goods coming into Britain from France arrive in trucks. Cargo that containers carry on ships, such as manufactured products, are not affected by the embargo.

Although the French embargo did not prevent goods from crossing the English Channel into Britain, confusion about the new regulations was adding to the long backups on both sides at a time when traffic was already being hampered by Christmas-related traffic and uncertainty about Britain’s trade. The future relationship with the European Union.

Around 10,000 trucks pass through the British port of Dover every day, which accounts for around 20% of the UK’s merchandise trade. British Transport Secretary Grant Shaps said the France ban was “a bit surprising” – but he tried to calm nerves by indicating that the majority of British trade had not been affected.

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Shabs insisted that the public “for the most part” would not notice a deficiency.

The French Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Jabbari indicated that a solution is coming. He said in a tweet on Twitter: “In the coming hours, at the European level, we will put in place a strong health protocol so that the flow from the UK can resume.”

“We are looking at a systematic test on arrival,” French President Emmanuel Macron said at a cabinet meeting via video Monday. Macron was working at the Elysee Palace while recovering from his COVID-19 infection.

Canada, India, Hungary and Switzerland are among the latest countries to stop flights from the United Kingdom, as are many countries in Europe. In the United States, the New York state governor said he wants to ban flights from Britain to New York City. France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland and Ireland were among those who announced on Sunday widespread restrictions on flights from Britain’s Eurotunnel, the rail service linking Britain to Europe, and also suspended services.

The moves come on the heels of Johnson’s announcement on Saturday that it has put London and southeast England into a new level of Level 4 restrictions after warning from its scientific advisers – using what is widely considered one of the most developed places in the world. Genome Sequencing Systems – They have discovered a new type of coronavirus that may be more infectious.

Johnson said that initial indications are that the new variant of the virus is 70% more transmissible and is driving the rapid spread of new infections in the capital and surrounding areas. Johnson will meet with the Cobra Civilian Emergency Committee later on Monday amid warnings of “significant disruption” around ports in the English Channel.

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The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control said Monday that while a preliminary analysis in the UK indicates that the new variant is “significantly more transmissible”, there is no indication that the infection is more severe. However, experts stressed that even if the new strain is not more deadly, more cases are bound to lead to more hospitalizations and subsequent deaths associated with the virus.

The Stockholm-based agency said Iceland, Denmark and the Netherlands had reported a few cases with the new variant. It also cited media reports of cases in Belgium and Italy.

Roman Wolffel, president of the Bundeswehr Institute for Microbiology in Munich, said the variants described by the UK did not appear in patient samples examined in Germany. However, he noted that the UK virus sequencing consortium is particularly good at finding new variants.

In Brussels, experts from European Union member states met to discuss the new alternative on Monday.

The chaos at the border comes at a time of tremendous uncertainty for the United Kingdom, less than two weeks before the final stage of Brexit.

Although the UK left the bloc on January 31, it is in a transition period that sees it effectively abiding by EU rules through the end of this year. Talks on the post-Brexit trade relationship remain deadlocked and are due to resume on Monday.

Retailers played down their fears of food shortages in the short term at least, but they cautioned that there could be problems if the travel ban continues for a while and if the UK and the European Union fail to agree on a post-Brexit trade deal.

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The British Retail Consortium has warned that shutting down traffic from France to the United Kingdom would create trade “hardships” during the busy Christmas period.

“Retailers are stockpiling merchandise before Christmas, which should prevent immediate problems,” said Andrew Obie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium.

“However, any prolonged closure of the French border would be a problem as the UK enters the final weeks before the end of the transition period.”

The UK Logistics Trade Association has urged people to stay calm and not rush to supermarkets to stock up on goods.

“Shoppers don’t have to panic when buying,” said Kevin Green, Director of Marketing and Communications. “If shipping moves again today, the overall impact on fresh produce arriving in supermarkets should be fairly minimal.”


Associated Press writers Frank Jordan in Berlin, Thomas Adamson in Paris, and Lauren Cook in Brussels contributed to this report.


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