Discussions with France on reopening trade and transport across the Channel are underway, with the government’s chief scientific adviser saying more restrictions may be needed in the UK amid fears of a new strain mutant Covid appearing “everywhere”.
Sir Patrick Vallance gave the grim warning after more than 40 countries banned UK flights over fears over the spread of the coronavirus variant, which is said to be around 70% more infectious.
France closed its border with the UK for 48 hours on Sunday evening over fears the mutant strain could spread further.
Boris Johnson has been in talks with French President Emmanuel Macron after announcing strict Level 4 measures for parts of the UK on Saturday at an emergency conference, while Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned “that there is not a moment to lose on this ”.
It has been reported that plans to reopen the border will go into effect from Wednesday.
Sturgeon confirmed Monday evening that she had spent most of the day in meetings, discussing the impact of the closure on escorted freight.
She tweeted: “The most urgent priority is for the UK to come to an agreement with France on a protocol that will revive freight. There is not a moment to waste on this and although the UK government has the primary responsibility here, we will do all we can to support it.
“Our most immediate concern is our seafood exporting sector. It’s the peak time of year for businesses and their impact is significant.
“I raised the issue of compensation at the COBRA meeting earlier and the Scottish Government will also be liaising with the industry regarding the support we can offer.
“We have no immediate concerns about the food supply – supermarkets are well stocked – so I urge people not to buy more than expected. Obviously, we will continue to monitor the situation closely as the post-Christmas period approaches. But quick resolution is vital.
“Likewise, we have good stocks of drugs and medical supplies, and we are not worried about Covid vaccine supplies – but again, we will be monitoring the situation very closely.”
The Scottish government “will be actively engaged in all of these issues until they are resolved”, she added.
However, she said that “the most important priority is to come to an agreement for the freight to move” as soon as possible.
According to a trade association, truck drivers waiting to cross the Channel were offered a single cereal bar each.
Rod McKenzie, Managing Director of the Road Haulage Association, told BBC Breakfast: “It is clear these drivers spent a second night parked somewhere, maybe on a freeway, maybe somewhere else, trying to cross the road. Channel, and many of them are European. drivers are trying to get home for Christmas and their morale is very bad.
“Yesterday Kent County Council gave them each a cereal bar, which is a pretty poor effort, I think in terms of keeping their spirits up and their morale up. ”
Mr McKenzie said the washrooms were also a “big deal” with concerns about health and cleanliness.
He added: “We do not treat them well as a country, we do not treat the truck drivers well in these very difficult conditions in which they find themselves now”.