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Nations rush to isolate UK over new “out of control” COVID variant fears

PortandTerminal.com, December 20, 2020

Logistics chaos | French government said on Sunday that all passenger and human-handled freight transport from the UK to France would be suspended for 48 hours from 11pm GMT.

LONDON – European nations have acted quickly to isolate the UK as fears of an “out of control”, more contagious new COVID variant, grip Europe.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters this new variant is more than 70 per cent more transmissible. But he stressed, “There’s no evidence to suggest it is more lethal or causes more severe illness.”

Worryingly though is that the spread of this new more transmissible virus is, as British Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said, it now “out of control.

European nations isolate UK

This weekend the U.K. plunged into chaos with police blocking people from boarding packed trains after thousands of people tried to leave London before it went into an emergency lockdown on Sunday.

Ireland, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium are all halting flights. The measures vary and are initially called “short-term” but the French rules also affect Channel freight.

The French government said on Sunday that all passenger and human-handled freight transport from the UK to France would be suspended for 48 hours from 11pm GMT.

Eurotunnel said access to its Folkestone terminal would be suspended for passenger and freight traffic from 11 pm, adding: “Customers with bookings after this time are advised NOT to travel to the terminal as they will not be able to cross to France.”

Although there is no ban in the other direction – ie people can still travel to the UK – many of the 10,000 trucks that cross the Channel every day through the tunnel and via the port of Dover are empty. Who would risk coming to the UK now when travel home is impossible?

The Port of Dover said on Sunday evening it was closing to all truck traffic, tweeting: “Ferry terminal at the Port of Dover is closed to all accompanied traffic leaving the UK until further notice due to border restrictions in France.”

It asked both “accompanied freight [trucks] and passenger customers not to travel to the port”.

Announced with little more than a few hours notice, the ban is expected to cause chaos at ports including Dover and Portsmouth, with the prospect of trucks destined for France being held up on the British side of the Channel alongside their drivers for a full two days.

Logistics UK, which represents freight owners from supermarkets to factories, said it was “very concerned about the welfare of drivers travelling from the UK to France at this time and is urgently seeking more information for our members”.

With reporting by BBC and The Guardian

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