Britain, stuck in COVID-19 isolation, pushes to lift freight ban in France

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LONDON / DOVER (Reuters) – The UK was stuck in COVID-19 isolation on Tuesday after much of the world cut travel links due to a highly contagious new strain of coronavirus, booming l ‘one of Europe’s most important trade routes just days before Brexit on the cliff edge.

With lines of trucks snaking on the horizon in England and supermarket shelves stripped days before Christmas, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson rushed to get French President Emmanuel Macron to lift the ban on freight from from Great Britain.

Johnson and his advisers said the mutated variant of the new coronavirus, which could be up to 70% more transmissible, was spreading rapidly but was identified because British scientists were so good at genomic surveillance.

The BBC quoted French Europe Minister Clément Beaune as saying that Britain and France would announce a deal to restart freight by Wednesday. One option is to deploy mass testing for truck drivers.

“We are constantly talking to our colleagues in France on a range of issues and this work has been going on for the past 24 hours and we will continue today,” Interior Minister Priti Patel told Sky News. “We will see what happens today.”

When asked if there would be a deal on Tuesday, Patel said, “We are working to get a resolution. It is in our interest to ensure fluidity. “

Johnson spoke to Macron on Monday about the lifting of the freight ban, adding that the French leader wanted to move within hours. Patel said details could be announced later on Tuesday.

The discovery of the new strain, just months before vaccines became widely available, sowed a new wave of panic in a pandemic that has killed an estimated 1.7 million people worldwide and more than 67,000 in Grande -Brittany.

SLEEPING IN TRUCKS

Countries around the world have closed their borders with Britain since the weekend, when Johnson canceled Christmas plans for millions of Britons due to the new strain of the virus, though he said that there was no evidence that it was either more fatal or caused illness.

The main concern is that the variant is significantly more transmissible than the original strain. It has 23 mutations in its genetic code – a relatively high number of changes – and some of them affect its ability to spread.

Scientists say there is no evidence that vaccines currently being deployed in the UK – manufactured by Pfizer PFE.N and BioNtech 22UAy.DE – or other COVID-19 vaccines in development will not protect against this variant , known as line B.1.1.7.

The UK is in effective quarantine against COVID-19 just nine days before it is due to its separation from the EU after a period of transition in one of the biggest changes in British history from post-World War II.

The renewed crisis has led some panicked shoppers to strip supermarket shelves.

Truck drivers stranded near the port of Dover said they just wanted to get home in time for Christmas. Most slept in their trucks at night.

“My chances of coming home for Christmas are diminishing. It’s stupid and I’m nervous and unhappy about it, ”said Stanislaw Olbrich, a 55-year-old Polish truck driver stuck 40 km north of Dover.

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton; Editing by Pravin Char

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