As dozens of nations all over the world closed their borders to travellers from the UK, Boris Johnson was engaged in a frantic diplomatic bid to influence France to reopen cross-Channel routes for important freight transport.
Flights have been grounded and ferry providers halted in response to the invention of a virulent new pressure of Covid-19 within the UK, inflicting queues of lorries stretching miles from the port of Dover and the Eurotunnel terminal in Folkestone.
Sainsbury’s stated that supermarkets might quickly run out of contemporary items like citrus fruits, salads, cauliflowers and broccoli, although different Christmas gadgets have been stockpiled and shouldn’t run quick.
Chief scientist Sir Patrick Vallance warned that tighter coronavirus restrictions might be wanted because the mutant virus, which is believed to be 70 per cent extra infective than the unique pressure, spreads across the UK.
He warned that new self-isolation orders in Greater Manchester and the West Midlands for guests arriving from tier 4 areas like London and Wales wouldn’t be sufficient to stop the coronavirus variant from reaching them.
As cross-Channel visitors remained at a standstill in Dover, the prime minister stated that British and French officers have been working “to unblock the circulation of commerce as quick as potential”.
He stated that Emmanuel Macron, the French president, had informed him in a cellphone name that he was eager to resolve the state of affairs inside hours “if we are able to”.
However by Monday night there was no signal of the brand new EU well being protocol which Mr Macron’s transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari had instructed as a way to restart motion of lorries heading for the continent.
A gathering of EU consultants agreed on the significance of conserving border crossings inside the 27-nation bloc open however requested additional steerage from the European Fee earlier than taking any resolution.
After peaking at round 500 within the hours after France imposed a 48-hour block on actions by autos from the UK late on Sunday, transport minister Grant Shapps stated that the variety of vehicles queueing on the motorway exterior Dover had been diminished to 174 by Monday afternoon.
Lots of them have been EU nationwide drivers trying to return to their dwelling international locations, he stated.
At a Downing Road press convention, Mr Johnson careworn that solely 20 per cent of UK meals imports from the continent arrived in lorries, with the remainder travelling in containers which aren’t impacted by the French resolution.
The “overwhelming majority” of meals, medicines and different provides – together with consignments of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine – have been “coming and going as regular”, he stated.
The PM stated he was assuring fellow leaders that “the chance of transmission by a solitary driver sitting alone within the cab are actually very low” and hoped to make progress on restarting transport actions “as quick as we probably can”.
Greater than 40 international locations worldwide have imposed restrictions on journey from the UK. The Republic of Eire has banned visits from the British mainland, whereas persevering with to permit entry from Northern Eire.
Italy, Spain, Sweden, Pakistan and Iran have been among the many international locations asserting restrictions on arrivals from Britain, whereas Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, stated he has requested airways flying into the state from the UK to make all passengers take a coronavirus check earlier than they get on the aircraft.
In the meantime, public well being officers in Better Manchester and the West Midlands issued orders for anybody coming from Wales or from tier 4 areas within the southeast of England to self-isolate for 10 days after arrival.
Tameside’s Jeanelle de Gruchy stated anybody arriving from the worst-affected areas ought to “act as if they’ve this new variant, even when they haven’t any signs”, and no different guests must be allowed into the home the place they’re staying, even on Christmas Day.
However Sir Patrick informed the Downing Road press convention: “The brand new variant is unfold across the nation. It’s localised in some locations however we all know there are instances all over the place, so it’s not as if we are able to cease this stepping into different locations, there’s some there already.”
The chief scientific adviser warned that additional restrictions have been on their manner for among the areas which evaded Mr Johnson’s order on Saturday for non-essential retailers in tier 4 areas to close and residents to remain at dwelling.
Lorries queue close to Dover as France closes border to UK
“The proof of this virus is it spreads simply, it’s extra transmissible,” stated Sir Patrick. “We completely want to verify we’ve bought the proper stage of restrictions in place.
“I feel it’s probably that this may develop in numbers of the variant throughout the nation. And I feel it’s probably due to this fact that measures will must be must be elevated in some locations sooner or later, not diminished.”
Official figures recorded 33,364 new optimistic instances and an additional 215 deaths on Monday, bringing the whole toll from the pandemic to 67,616.
Some eight areas of the UK now have charges of Covid-19 an infection larger than 1,000 per 100,000 inhabitants. The checklist is headed by Merthyr Tydfil (1,300), adopted by Bridgend, Blaenau Gwent, Thurrock in Essex, Havering in east London, Epping Forest, Basildon, and Medway in north Kent.
Mr Johnson hailed the information that 500,000 folks within the UK have now been vaccinated in opposition to Covid-19 as “a cause for hope, and for confidence”. However he resisted requires vaccinations to be targeted on tier 4 areas within the hope of halting the unfold of the brand new variant. And he held again from guaranteeing that faculties will reopen as deliberate in January.
Labour deputy chief Angela Rayner tweeted: “The federal government is telling the general public that the second Covid pressure – which is extra infectious – is already in each a part of the nation and additional restrictions might be wanted.
“So why has Boris Johnson not acted? We already know the tier system doesn’t management infections.”
Liberal Democrat chief Sir Ed Davey stated: “Boris Johnson is failing to inform the reality in regards to the scale of the home disaster attributable to the brand new Covid pressure, failing to set out his plans to help the weak and enterprise on this new stage of the well being disaster, and failing to reassure he has a grip on all this.
“Folks may have watched the PM’s press convention and be questioning whether or not in a couple of days’ time he might be pressured to announce a nationwide lockdown and admit Dover has descended into chaos.”
The prime minister defended himself in opposition to the cost that he had overpromised and underdelivered all through the pandemic.
“It is vitally essential to be as lifelike as we probably can,” he stated.
“I don’t suppose anyone would need to have seen this nation spend this final yr in a complete lockdown. We now have needed to do what we are able to to maintain our economic system shifting.”