Lorry drivers WILL be able to travel to France from tomorrow morning but will have to provide a negative Covid test ‘as British military prepare to test up to 6,000 hauliers a day with controversial lateral flow test’
- France announced travel ban on all traffic from UK on Sunday night after emergence of new Covid-19 strain
- Decision meant Port of Dover was dramatically closed to all freight vehicles leaving the UK for next 48 hours
- UK and France still trying to agree on measures to reopen the border as hundreds of lorries queue in Kent
- EU today urged European nations to drop travel bans on UK but said travel to Britain should be ‘discouraged’
- Business chiefs claimed the chaos is entirely of the Government’s own making and called for compensation
Which countries have banned flights from the UK?
All flights from UK banned –
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden.
UK travellers allowed with a negative test –
Still allowing own nationals to enter –
Greece, Portugal, Spain.
REST OF EUROPE
All flights from UK banned –
Norway, Switzerland, Turkey,
REST OF THE WORLD
All flights from UK banned –
Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Iran, Jamaica, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan.
UK travellers allowed with a negative test –
Lorry drivers will finally be able to travel to France from tomorrow morning but will have to provide a negative Covid test amid reports the British military is preparing to test up to 6,000 hauliers a day using a controversial method.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps took to social media tonight to confirm that a deal had been struck, which also means planes, boats and the Eurostar will all resume their service.
France has been demanding gold-standard PCR tests over recent days, but it is unclear which type of test has been agreed upon.
Reports suggest the army will carry out thousands of tests a day using the controversial lateral flow test, which was today branded effectively useless.
French transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari tweeted tonight: ‘French nationals, residents and those with a legitimate reason to be here must provide a negative test.’
The two nations had been wrangling over a screening regime in a bid to get Dover moving again, after Brussels called for an end to the border blockade which has seen 4,000 more lorries park up in Kent.
The EU has urged European countries to drop all travel bans imposed on the UK, including on the movement of freight, as a growing number of trucks now fill the motorway and side streets near Dover.
The European Commission published guidance at lunchtime recommending all non-essential travel to and from the UK should be ‘discouraged’ because of the risk posed by a new mutant strain of coronavirus which spreads quicker than its predecessor.
But it added: ‘Flight and train bans should be discontinued given the need to ensure essential travel and avoid supply chain disruptions.’
On the specific issue of UK lorry drivers being allowed back onto the continent, Brussels said that where a member state requires them to take a coronavirus test before being allowed in – something France is pushing for – the process ‘should not lead to transport disruptions’.
There has been a furious behind-the-scenes row over the issue of testing lorry drivers with France and Britain both arguing for different methods of testing.
President Emmanuel Macron has demanded PCR tests are used, the more expensive, lab-based tests that can take up to 72 hours to process.
The UK, on the other hand, wants to use the faster lateral flow tests which can provide results within an hour – even though these are considered less effective unless administered by a nurse.
Indeed, Operation Moonshot, Number 10’s ambitious plan to use the rapid kits to test million of people, came under fire from top scientists today, with the Department of Health admitting they miss around a half of infections.
Furthermore, damning evidence now shows they may be effectively useless when self-administered, despite Downing Street’s current testing scheme relying on people taking their own swabs.
When asked to provide detail on any proposed testing regime, a Department for Transport spokesman could only say that ‘negotiations are ongoing’.
Reports suggest Macron had accepted an offer from the UK to use lateral flow tests for lorry drivers rather PCR tests.
However, Government sources told MailOnline that the two sides were yet to reach an agreement on measures to reopen the border, despite days of intense negotiations.
Meanwhile, The Sun reported that Boris Johnson is preparing to send in the army to Kent, with soldiers due to be tasked with administering tests to the hundreds of lorry drivers stuck in the county.
It came as business chiefs and haulage bosses said they believed ‘there are about 4,000 food and drink lorries on their way to Dover’ and that the total backlog of vehicles waiting to make the crossing to the continent will be ‘probably nearer 6 or 7,000 by the end of today’.
The decision by France to impose a travel ban prompted anger in Downing Street, with some in Number 10 of the belief that Paris is using the border crisis to try to force Britain to cave in during Brexit trade talks.
But Mr Macron is facing a massive backlash as trapped French drivers accused him of ‘abandoning them in a foreign country’.
France announced the travel ban on arrivals from the UK on Sunday night after the identification of a new Covid-19 strain in the south east of England.
More than 1,500 lorries are now backed up in Kent, unable to make the crossing, leaving drivers spending a second night sleeping in their cabs.
The scale of the crisis was illustrated by aerial photographs showing hundreds of lorries parked at the disused Manston Airfield which was set aside by the Government as part of its no deal Brexit contingency plans.
It boasts the 11th-longest civilian runway in the UK at more than 9,000ft, meaning it is nearly two miles long.
The 48 hour closure is due to end at 11pm UK time tonight but France was not alone in imposing restriction on the UK, with more than 40 countries having banned flights.
The decision by France to ban freight, as well as passenger travel, caught Number 10 off guard with some officials and ministers of the view that Mr Macron is trying to use the situation as leverage in Brexit talks. A transport industry source told The Times that Downing Street was ‘incandescent’ when the ban was announced.
Critics believe the UK would be unable to cope with the double hit of coronavirus chaos and a no deal split from the EU on December 31.
One Tory MP told MailOnline that ‘Macron has been so bombastic over Brexit and fisheries over the last few weeks one must conclude it is a shot across the bows of the UK’.
The row over the travel ban came as Britain and the EU appeared to be inching closer to a breakthrough on the crunch issue of fishing rights in trade talks, amid rising optimism that the two sides could still strike a deal in the coming days.
Meanwhile, ministers are said to be preparing plans to crash any deal through the House of Commons and the Lords in a single day next week, with December 30 viewed as the most likely option.
The latest developments in the Dover crisis came as:
- Retail industry boss warns lorry jams must be cleared today to avoid fresh fruit and veg shortage at New Year
- SAGE expert warns of a ‘human disaster’ unless there is a full New Year lockdown with variant everywhere
- The threat to the vaccine rollout and routine operations grows as Covid-19 admissions across the UK surge
- UK economy bounced back by 16 per cent between July and September but national debt highest for 60 years
- Extremely vulnerable living in Tier Four areas are urged not to go to work even if they can’t work from home
- PM refuses to rule out keeping schools closed indefinitely – will reopen classrooms ‘if we can’ after Christmas
An aerial view shows lines of freight lorries and heavy goods vehicles parked on the tarmac at Manston Airport near Ramsgate
Lorries parked at the Manston Airfield in Kent. The disused field had originally been planned as a car park as a post-Brexit contingency in the event of a No Deal scenario
Home Secretary Priti Patel said this morning that there are 650 lorries on the M20, and 873 at Manston (pictured)
Freight lorries are seen parked at Dover Marina in Kent, south east England, adjacent to the Port of Dover as queuing trucks wait to continue their journeys after France closed its borders
An aerial view shows lines of freight lorries and heavy goods vehicles parked on the tarmac at Manston Airport near Ramsgate
After a pointless press conference on Monday evening, Boris Johnson (pictured left) is said to be drawing up plans to send extra testing capacity to the Port of Dover in a bid to end chaos brought about by France’s travel ban. Emmanuel Macron (pictured right) is expected to announce his plan to end the travel ban later
A live map of the traffic near the Port of Dover as lorries pile-up in front of the port amid the current French travel ban
PCR vs lateral flow Covid tests: Chaos as UK and France clash over type of testing used for truckers
The French government is demanding that any travellers from the UK, including truckers, take PCR tests before arriving in the country, which can take up to three days to return a result.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PCR TEST AND A LATERAL FLOW?
A PCR test can cost upwards of £180 per person, with the swab needing to be processed in a lab.
The UK, on the other hand, favours faster tests which are not lab based and give a result within 15 minutes.
These rapid coronavirus tests, known as lateral flow tests, are ones that can be done on the spot using portable equipment.
They are faster and cheaper than lab-based PCR tests, which the government uses to diagnose people, but are less accurate.
LATERAL FLOW TESTS ARE RAPID – BUT CAN SACRIFICE ACCURACY
In a lateral flow test a swab is used to get a sample from the person’s nose or throat and it is then processed in a small machine that tries to detect the coronavirus by mixing the sample with something the virus would react with.
If there is a reaction in the mixture it suggests that the person is carrying coronavirus. If not, they get a negative result. This process can be completed in as little as 15 minutes.
You take your own swab though a professional on site processes it through the machine.
However, as the swabs are often taken by people themselves, the accuracy of the test could be hampered as they may not push the swab deep enough to get enough of a sample.
Results from trials have varied wildly and show the tests perform better when the swabs are done by trained medics and worse when people do them themselves.
PCR TESTS CAN TAKE SEVERAL DAYS TO GET RESULTS – BUT ARE MORE ACCURATE
These lateral flow tests differ from the gold standard PCR test – known scientifically as polymerase chain reaction testing.
PCR tests also use a swab but this is then processed using high-tech laboratory equipment to analyse the genetic sequence of the sample to see if any of it matches the genes of coronavirus.
This is a much more long-winded and expensive process, involving multiple types of trained staff, and the analysis process can take hours, with the whole process from swab to someone receiving their result taking days.
It is significantly more accurate, however. In ideal conditions the tests are almost 100 per cent accurate at spotting the virus, although this may be more like 70 per cent in the real world.
This compares to a much lower sensitivity in lateral flow tests, with a trial of one type used in Liverpool suggesting they miss around 50 per cent of the people who would test positive with PCR.
SO, WHAT IS THE BENEFIT OF LATERAL FLOW TESTING?
Extreme accuracy may be a drawback for PCR now that so many people have been infected, however, with the tests able to detect shreds of the virus in people who recovered weeks ago and are no longer infectious, which may lead them to have to self-isolate unnecessarily.
Lateral flow tests are more likely to miss people who are carrying the virus but, experts say, do have value as a way of weeding out people carrying large amounts of the virus and therefore most likely to be spreading the disease.
Furious French drivers stuck in Dover have hit out at Mr Macron over the travel ban with apple grower Marie Noelle saying: ‘Macron, merde! Let me come home. I am French but this is all our fault. It is definitely political to do with Brexit and the fishing.’
Vanessa Ibarlucea, of France’s National Federation of Road Transport, hit out at Mr Macron’s preference for a PCR coronavirus test for people trying to get to the country.
She said: ‘It takes 48 hours to get an appointment and another 48 hours to get the results of a PCR test.
‘So our drivers will not be home with their families in time for December 24. Our drivers have been abandoned in a foreign country.’
The port chaos is just one of the coronavirus-related issues facing Britain, with one of the Government’s scientific advisers warning of the looming threat of a full New Year lockdown in England.
Professor Robert West, who sits on SAGE’s behaviour science panel, said the Government’s current methods were unlikely to contain the spread of Covid-19. He argued the UK needed to bolster social distancing rules and build a test, travel, isolate and support programme similar to ones seen in East Asia.
Home Secretary Priti Patel also hinted schools could be shut throughout January as Britain grapples with the new strain of coronavirus.
The UK and France are hoping to announce a resolution to the border ban today but industry bosses have warned the disruption will last for days to come because of the knock on effect of stopping so many lorries from making their journey.
Ian Wright, the chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, told the Business Select Committee this afternoon that the chaos was a problem of the Government’s own making and that ministers should pay compensation to affected firms.
He said: ‘Much of this should have been avoided. The Government was well aware of the power of the announcement it made on Saturday night, indeed Chris Whitty went out of his way probably rightly to scare the population about the impact of the second variant of Covid.
‘But the point is everybody who listened to that will have known that everybody else in Europe was also going to be scared.’
He added: ‘It really is incumbent on the Government to come forward and be prepared I think to compensate those who have lost out because of that failure of authority.’
Mr Wright said his estimates suggest ‘there are about 4,000 food and drink lorries on their way to Dover at various points’ and when the blockade is finally ended there will be ‘over 4,000’ lorries which will have to be cleared.
Duncan Buchanan from the Road Haulage Association told the same committee that he believes ‘at least 4,000’ lorries will be stuck in the UK because of the border ban by the end of the day and that the total backlog could ultimately rise to ‘probably nearer 6-7,000’.
He said: ‘You have got to remember that what comes in is going to want to go out. So we have whatever the numbers that are being reported by EuroTunnel and by the Port of Dover or the ferry companies at the moment, all of those lorries are going to go out again and we have got two full days of complete stop.
‘So it is going to be probably nearer 6 or 7,000 by the end of today that are going to be the direct backlog going back out.’
Mr Buchanan warned the disruption will have lasting implications for supply chains, telling MPs: ‘Normally when we have supply chain disruption it is a particular port or it is a weather event.
‘This is of a different order of magnitude and in the context of Brexit and what is coming from January 1 this is the start of a very, very serious supply chain disruption of the like that we probably have never experienced.’
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium (BRC), told the committee: ‘The real issue we face is what happens in the next day or so.
‘If we do not see the empty trucks, which have already delivered warehouses and stores, getting back over the channel, they will not be able to pick up the next consignment of fresh fruit, vegetables, salad vegetables, all the food we do not grow in the country at this time of year.
‘What we’ve been told by members is that unless those trucks can start travelling again and go back to Spain and Portugal and other parts of Europe, we will [see] problems with fresh produce from December 27.
Lorries arrive at Manston Airport in Kent while they await clearance to cross over to Europe and an end to the French travel ban
Lorries are parked on the runway at Manston airport which had previously been earmarked as a car park in the event of a No-Deal Brexit
The decision by France to ban freight, as well as passenger travel, caught Number 10 off guard with some officials and ministers of the view that Mr Macron is trying to use the situation as leverage in Brexit talks
‘What we need is for those trucks to move in the next 24 hours if we are to avoid seeing problems on our shelves.’
Photographs of Dover revealed the extend of the chaos caused by the French travel ban, with one showing row upon row of lorries parked at Manston Airport, a disused facility which has been designated as a lorry park in the event of a no deal Brexit.
How disused Manston Airport was originally planned to be a post-Brexit contingency plan
The usage of the disused Manston Airfield in Kent as a lorry park had originally been planned as a post-Brexit contingency in the event of a No Deal scenario.
But it is now being used as a result of the coronavirus disruption and has been prepared to accommodate up to 4,000 lorries as a measure to ease congestion around the Port of Dover.
Logistics UK has already said plans to use Manston were an ‘absolute necessity’ for lorry drivers to get refreshments and use the toilet.
Home Secretary Priti Patel confirmed today that there are ‘welfare facilities and support for those hauliers’ at Manston.
The Department for Transport added that there is hot and cold running water, hand cleaning facilities and provision of drinking water.
A special development order running until June 2021 allows the site to be used to hold up to 4,000 HGVs to help cope with any post-Brexit jams at Dover.
Refrigerated vehicles can connect to generators, with no idling permitted and engines of stationary vehicles and auxiliary generators having to be switched off.
HGVs carrying hazardous cargoes are put in a different section to other vehicles, and there are emergency procedures to respond to a chemical spill or tanker fire.
However there has been opposition to the use of Manston as a site for holding HGVs affected by delays, with Thanet District Council saying it places a ‘disproportionate burden’ on the area.
Local councillors fear it will lead to roads becoming heavily congested which could block major routes to the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate and William Harvey Hospital near Ashford.
It follows a trial run held last year involving up to 150 lorries to see how the plan would work.
Manston started life during the First World War as a military station in 1915 with a base at Westgate Bay for seaplanes, before growing to include four underground hangars, a railway line, a power station and barracks for 3,000 men by the end of the war.
It was again an important forward based during the Second World War and Barnes Wallis used the base to test his bouncing bomb in 1943 before the famous Dambusters raid.
Post-war it became an American base for eight years and then returned to the RAF in 1960 where it became a major diversionary airfield for aircraft in trouble. In the following decades there were also holiday charter flights organised, especially over the summer.
But the closure of RAF Manston was announced in 1999, with the civil part of the airport continuing – but this also then shut in 2014 with the airport losing £10,000 a day, one year after it was bought by Stagecoach co-founder Ann Gloag for £1.
It boasts the 11th-longest civilian runway in the UK at more than 9,000ft, meaning it is nearly two miles long.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said this morning that there were 650 lorries on the M20, and 873 at Manston.
She said the Government was ‘working to get a resolution’ as talks continued with France on reopening full trade and transport across the Channel.
She told Sky News: ‘We’re working to get a resolution, I think that’s really important to put this into context.
‘It’s in both our interests, both countries to ensure that we have flow and of course there are European hauliers right now who want to be going home and quite frankly it’s in both our interests to carry on those discussions and negotiations and we will see what materialises today.’
Discussing the issue of testing, she said: ‘Discussions about the type of testing will take place between the transport secretaries, both here and in Paris so I can’t speculate on the type of testing that will be used.
‘But it is quite clear, I mean we ask passengers to take tests before they get on planes, it is quite clear now that mass testing and testing is the way forward so we will find proactive and productive ways in which if we have to introduce testing to make sure that happens and I think that will provide assurance and security all around.’
Among those stuck in the queues at Dover was French apple grower Ms Noelle, 63, who said she was desperate to return home to Tours for her mother’s funeral. Paulette Poujet died aged 87 on Saturday after an aggressive four month battle with severe Alzheimers.
Ms Noelle said: ‘The funeral is at 2pm on Wednesday. I simply must be there. I want to go through first but I know every person wants the same.
‘But we have a seven hour journey from Calais and it does not look like we will move soon. This makes me so sad. I cannot stop crying.
‘Look at this situation with all these people waiting. It is not normal. I am French but this is all our fault.
‘It is definitely political to do with Brexit and the fishing.’
She drove down to Dover with British friend Isabel Cordeiro, 60, who she had been visiting in Hackney, east London.
They arrived at 6am on Sunday morning and have been eating sandwiches and using petrol station toilets. No one has been to check on them apart from a kind woman from a neighbouring home who offered them coffee.
Retired social worker Ms Cordeiro usually spends Christmas with her brother and his family but now fears she will miss out on the festivities.
She said: ‘It looks like I will miss my Christmas which is a shame. It does make me upset but what my friend is missing is far more important. It puts it into perspective.
‘In France they have a Covid policy where burial must take place five days after death so this is a matter of urgency. Sadly I don’t think my friend will be able to see her mum be put to rest. She is devastated.
‘So I am here to support her. At least we can say we tried all we can. But this is outrageous. This is politics. It has to be as this mutation of the virus will still be around after 48 hours – it will not go away.
‘They take us for idiots and put pressure on us so I hope Boris stands up for himself. This year has been so hard for everybody and now this is like the cherry on the cake.’
It comes amid a row between Britain and France over how to open the border.
Testing is the preferred option but there is a disconnect between the two parties on the form this will take.
France favours the slower PCR tests which can take up to three days to return with a result and can cost more than £180.
Paris also wants the testing to be carried out before an individual arrives on French soil, demanding some kind of certificate is presented upon arrival.
This would put the cost of the programme on the UK and, with the inherent delay that comes with PCR tests, mean that delays at the border could last past Christmas, confining drivers to their lorries over the festive period.
The UK, on the other hand, wants to use a rapid lateral flow test which can return a positive or negative result within 15 minutes.
They are less accurate but, as well as the speed, can cost far less per test as they do not need to be lab processed.
However, even if this quicker method is used, the testing programme is expected to cause logistical chaos with potentially 6,000 drivers a day needing to be screened.
Around two thirds of these drivers use the port of Dover and a third the Eurotunnel.
The row has left lorry drivers worrying about missing Christmas with their families. One French lorry driver currently stuck in Dover said: ‘We known nothing, we don’t know if we can get home to see our families for Christmas.’
An aerial shot of the huge winding lorry queue outside the Port of Dover today as travel chaos continues after France introduced a travel ban on Britain
Lorry drivers waiting to cross the border now fear missing Christmas with their families after France announced its coronavirus travel ban against the UK
The number of lorries currently queued up at the border could be as high as 1,500 lorries, some say. Highways England last night estimated it to be almost 1,000
Meanwhile, on testing, Ms Patel said the UK’s Transport Secretary Grant Shapps was in discussions with his French counterparts today and said ‘we will find a resolution’
Boris Johnson ‘is convinced Emmanuel Macron has imposed travel ban on UK to pile pressure on government during Brexit trade talks and is taking advantage of the mutant Covid strain’
Downing Street was ‘incandescent’ when France announced its UK travel ban on Sunday night and is convinced Emmanuel Macron is trying to use the crisis to force Britain to cave in during Brexit trade talks, it was claimed today.
Number 10 yesterday publicly dismissed suggestions that there may be a Brexit element to Mr Macron’s decision to ban all traffic from Britain because of the new mutant strain of coronavirus.
But privately officials and ministers are said to believe Mr Macron is at least in part motivated by a desire to pile the pressure on the UK as trade negotiations go down to the wire.
A transport industry source told The Times that officials in Number 10 were ‘incandescent’ when the ban was announced and that they were caught off guard because they thought it would only apply to passengers and not to freight as well.
The travel ban has caused chaos at British ports and critics believe the UK will not be able to cope if it also has to deal with the disruption caused by a no deal divorce from Brussels on December 31.
The row over the travel ban came as Britain and the EU appeared to be inching closer to a breakthrough on the crunch issue of fishing rights amid rising optimism that the two sides could still strike a deal in the coming days.
Meanwhile, ministers are said to be preparing plans to crash any deal through the House of Commons and the Lords in a single day next week, with December 30 viewed as the most likely option.
Negotiations between Michel Barnier and his UK counterpart Lord Frost remain ongoing with fishing viewed as the biggest stumbling block to a deal.
However, the two sides are also still in disagreement over the so-called ‘level playing field’ on future rules.
Should the two sides fail to strike a trade accord they will trade on basic World Trade Organisation terms from January 1 which will mean tariffs being imposed on goods.
Downing Street yesterday rejected demands to extend the transition period amid growing calls to push back the talks deadline because of the border chaos caused by the new mutant strain of the coronavirus which spreads quicker than its predecessor.
The decision by Mr Macron to ban UK traffic has strained relations between London and Paris, with some in Whitehall adamant the French President made the move at least in part because of Brexit.
Some ministers and officials suspect the crackdown is an attempt to apply pressure to the UK to give ground in Brexit trade talks.
Mr Macron is refusing to budge on his demands for French trawlers to maintain high levels of access to UK waters after Brexit.
One official told Politico: ‘If ever we needed a reason to show why we’re leaving the EU, the French trying to take food off our shelves for Christmas out of spite should do it.’
The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman yesterday insisted the Government does not believe there was a Brexit element to the French decision.
He said: ‘No, we don’t think that is the reason for this. As I say, throughout the pandemic different travel restrictions have been imposed around the world.
‘You are aware of our travel quarantine policy that has been used for some time now and I pointed to the example fo Denmark where we suspended travel not too long ago.’
It came as Britain and Brussels appear to be inching closer to a breakthrough on the crunch issue of fishing rights.
The UK is said to have tabled a last-minute compromise which would see the EU cut its fishing catch in British waters by approximately one third over a transition period of five years.
That would be considerably more generous than the UK’s original offer of a 60 per cent reduction over three years.
However, the EU is reportedly still holding out for a reduction of no more than 25 per cent which it wants to be spread out over a seven year period having started negotiations by offering just an 18 per cent reduction over a decade.
An EU official told The Telegraph ‘it’s still a no from us’ while a UK government source disputed the suggestion, first reported by Bloomberg, that it is willing to accept a one third reduction, insisting ‘it’s not the offer and the EU are still miles off what we need’.
Today Highways England warned the chaos around the Kent port could last for days. Hundreds of lorries are currently waiting to cross the English Channel when it reopens.
The highways authority has urged hauliers not to drive to the border. Traffic measures Operation Stack and Operation Brock have been activated in a bid to calm the chaos.
Highways England yesterday estimated the total number of lorries to be almost 1,000 on the M20 alone.
Lorry drivers waiting to cross the Channel have been offered just a single cereal bar each, according to a trade association.
Rod McKenzie, managing director of the Road Haulage Association, told BBC Breakfast: ‘Clearly those drivers have spent a second night parked up somewhere, possibly on a motorway, possibly somewhere else, trying to get across the Channel, and many of them are European drivers trying to get home for Christmas, and their morale is very poor.
‘Yesterday Kent County Council offered each of them one cereal bar, which is a pretty poor effort, I think in terms of maintaining their morale, and their spirits.’
Mr McKenzie said toilet facilities were also a ‘big issue’ with concerns over health and cleanliness.
He added: ‘We are not treating them well as a country, we are not treating lorry drivers well in these very difficult conditions that they are in at the moment.’
The British Retail Consortium (BRC), which represents more than 170 major retailers including the big supermarkets, said while supplies were plentiful for Christmas there could be problems in store shortly after.
It said fresh produce such as salad, vegetables and fruit including raspberries and strawberries could be in short supply.
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Just to be clear, there’s certainly not a problem for Christmas.
‘There’s plenty of food in the supply chain and in the stores at the moment, so nobody needs to be worried about food for Christmas dinners – there’s plenty of food for everybody and we can all shop normally.’
But he warned there could be issues after Christmas, saying: ‘There is a problem potentially directly after Christmas and that is really in fresh produce, so we’re talking here about things like salad, vegetables, fresh fruit, of which the vast majority come from Europe at this time.
‘Our view is as long as it can be cleared up today, there’ll be minimal impact for consumers.
‘Remember the shops are shut on Christmas Day, which takes one day of buying out of the equation, but those lorries that are stuck in Kent, they do need to get back within the next day.’
It comes after the Prime Minister blustered his way through a pointless press conference last night, where he was unable to answer most of the questions put to him about the French travel ban.
He also made a personal appeal for the French President to lift the ban.
But as an agreement failed to materialise, the Government is said to be working on increasing testing capacity in Kent should Macron refuse back down.
A Government source told The Telegraph: ‘Testing is time-consuming and sets a precedent for post-transition. We are trying to avoid it, but we are doing the work to get testing capacity and the infrastructure down to Kent in case we need it.’
Last night Labour said any spare testing capacity should be used to help end the chaos at Dover. Shadow chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster Rachel Reeves insisted ministers needed to stop ‘dithering’ and take decisive action to deal with the ‘chaos’ at the UK border.
Ms Reeves insisted the Government should urgently direct mobile testing centres and spare testing capacity to ports.
The shadow cabinet member said that Government figures show unused testing capacity is around 300,000 tests per day.
And that over December on average, it only used 50 per cent of its testing capacity.
Ms Reeves said that with some 6,000 freight drivers passing through the border per day, ‘the UK’s capacity is more than enough to have daily tests at ports’.
The Department of Transport could not shed any light on the situation, saying it could not comment on whether testing would be rolled-out until a deal with France had been reached.
But Jean Marc Puissesseau, president of the Port of Calais, today backed plans for testing. He told BBC Radio 4: ‘I think something should happen with this test, which should be put in force as soon as possible so they can come back. But in Calais it is very quiet.’
Frustrated drivers have spoken about being stuck over the festive period.
Long-distance lorry driver Geoff Moxham could be about to miss his first Christmas at home in 45 years after France closed its borders with Britain.
‘Toilets aren’t a pretty sight: Macron – let us come home!’: Furious drivers say chaos at Dover is ‘all the French president’s fault’ (but one resourceful trucker manages to cook up a delicious Mediterranean breakfast at the roadside
Furious French drivers have today blamed Emanuel Macron for the chaos at Dover after his travel ban left hundreds stranded in the UK, while others took the disruption in their stride by enjoying a road-side breakfast.
One French apple grower Marie Noelle, 63, cried ‘Macron, merde! Let me come home,’ as she anxiously awaited news on plans to lift the cross-Channel travel ban.
Ms Noelle, from the city of Tours, desperately wants to cross the Channel to attend the funeral of her mother Paulette Poujet, who died aged 87 on Saturday after a four month battle with Alzheimers.
But she and hundreds of others like her today remain stranded in the Kent port town as French and British officials attempt to thrash out a deal to life the travel ban.
Around 1,5000 lorries are thought to be queued in and around Dover waiting for the green light to cross the Channel.
Some fear not being able to return to their families in time for Christmas, while others have bemoaned the toilet situation – with one saying ‘they are not a pretty sight’.
But while some anxiously awaits an end to the disruption, others lorries drivers have taken it in their stride.
One Turkish long-haul truck driver was today seen tucking into a Mediterranean breakfast at a truck stop off the M20 motorway, seemingly unfazed by the mass-disruption.
Emergency talks are taking place today in a bid to end the cross-Channel travel ban, with the French president expected to announce plans to reopen the border later today.
The 48-hour ban, introduced on Sunday after the identification of a new Covid-19 strain in the UK, is set to end at 11pm tonight.
Turkish long-haul truck drivers sit down to breakfast at a truck stop off the M20 motorway which leads to the Port of Dover
President Macron has also been accused of abandoning foreign truckers over his insistence on the use of a slower PCR test – which can take up to three days to return a result – to test drivers crossing into France
Another among the queues waiting to cross the Channel was French apple grower Marie Noelle, 63, who was desperate to return home to Tours for her mother’s funeral
Emergency talks are ongoing this morning in a bid to end the cross-Channel blockage, with the French president expected to announce his plan to end the travel ban later today. Pictured: Truck driver Victor from Ukraine
A police officer speaks with drivers parked near the Port of Dover as he directs them to head to Manston Airport
But with talks ongoing today over a possible border Covid testing scheme, and Highways England warning that delays could last several days, some lorry drivers fear the prospect of missing Christmas with their families.
President Macron has also been accused of abandoning foreign truckers over his insistence on the use of a slower PCR test – which can take up to three days to return a result – to test drivers crossing into France.
Speaking about the situation, one lorry driver told BBC Radio Four’s Today Programme: ‘I feel bad, really bad, terrible in fact. We known nothing, we don’t know if we can get home to see our families for Christmas.’
On plans for lorry drivers to be tested before their return, he said: ‘It will be good, but maybe in Dover there are 1,000 to 1,500 lorries.
‘If they implement testing here then maybe it will be a good idea, but they need to start now to get to Christmas Eve.’
‘There is no words to describe this. I came on Sunday and on Sunday they decided to close it. If I knew that one day before, I would never have come here.’
The Cheltenham grandfather did not realise he was on the last ferry out of Dover until he started talking to a French member of staff who asked him how he was planning to get home.
Now instead of putting his feet up on Christmas Eve the father of four faces being stuck at the side of the road with thousands of other drivers or driving down the motorway home.
‘I was 66 yesterday and spent my birthday on the road and I’m not planning to do the same at Christmas,’ he said.
‘I haven’t missed a Christmas at home for 45 years so I will be there even if I have to get a boat.’
HGV driver Frank could have officially retired on his 66th birthday on Sunday.
Instead he was delivering heavy machinery to Germany for Charles Russell Transport in Deerhurst and drove on to the ferry to Calais at around 6pm on Sunday.
‘I was on the last ferry leaving the UK but i didn’t know until one of the French crew members I know wished me luck getting home,’ he explained.
‘When I asked what he meant he said they were all finishing work and there would be no more transport back to the UK. I was completely taken aback.
‘I couldn’t believe it. There weren’t any announcements and nobody had said anything until then.’
After reading about the new global lockdown Geoff said he was surprised nobody stopped him at the borders as he drove through the night to reach Germany via Belgium and Holland.
Now he has to pick up some heavy machinery in Hanover before heading home and fears that a backlog of queueing traffic will mean long tailbacks at the border.
However decades of experience have taught him ways of getting home so he is hoping to make it.
‘I’ve been married for 44 years and have four daughters and 12 grandchildren so we normally have big family Christmases,’ he said.
‘I don’t know what happening this year but my wife just called and asked if I can pick up some fresh vegetables on the way back.
‘She’s a fantastic cook and is worried that there will be no fresh fruit and veg and when she goes to Tesco later today.’
Last night there were 920 lorries parked on the M20, with Operation Brock closing the carriageway for miles. Nearby lorry parks in Kent are also filling up.
France yesterday indicated it will open up to lorries from Britain again, but demanded drivers register a negative test.
Mr Macron confirmed authorities could demand ‘PCR tests are presented as being negative upon the arrival on (French) territory.’
A PCR test can take two to three days to come back, suggesting drivers would be required to get tested in the UK before they leave for France.
It would also mean that people trying to get to France from Britain would need to present some form of certificate to get into the country. It is unclear what will happen if someone arrives at the border without proof of a negative test.
The Road Haulage Association said it was ‘anyone’s guess,’ how a programme of testing at the border could be rolled out.
Paul Mummery, spokesman for the RHA told MailOnline: ‘Until we can understand what that process looks like, it’s difficult to gauge whether freight can start running again.
‘This is something they will want to do very, very quickly, but what that looks like is anyone’s guess.’
Ronald Schroeder, 52, from Hamburg, Germany, who was turned back from Dover on Sunday night, said the ‘social situation’ for drivers is worsening due to a lack of toilet and washing facilities.
He said: ‘I am now staying in a hotel, but in front of the hotel there are thousands of people without any rooms waiting to come over the Channel crossing.
‘I feel a little bit like Robinson Crusoe on an island.’
He went on: ‘The problems of the drivers who are not already in hotels is huge – in my hotel three buses are renting just one room to have a toilet and a shower.
‘They say in the buses, the motor is running, the social situation becomes more and more worse every hour.
‘The public toilets should be open here right now, there should be someone to hand tea or coffee to the drivers, there should be more help for all the people who have been stranded.’
He added: ‘Myself, I am in a warm hotel, I have enough food for the next two weeks, but I see a lot of people who have big problems staying more than one night.
‘People are already staying a second night in their car, it’s just not a life. I ask the British Government to please help, and help immediately.
‘I do not see there is much help from the Government, the British Government or the Belgium government, which just says wait, and how long it should be is the question.’
Mr Schroeder said he has resigned himself to not getting home to be with his family on Christmas Day.
‘I already know that for me Christmas is gone, I have already stopped the hope of Christmas, hopefully I can be back for New Year, but I have lost the hope this Christmas to be at home with my children and my wife.’
Greg Mazurek, 36, and Simon Kopanearz, 30, had been stuck near the front of the queue outside the Port since 1pm on Monday.
They had delivered vital respirators to a medical centre in Hemel Hempstead earlier that morning to help fight the Covid outbreak sweeping the nation.
The Polish truckers now face Christmas in the cabin after their expected three day trip was brought to a halt.
Mr Mazurek said: ‘We have just made a very, very important delivery and this is how we are repaid.
‘That is the cruellest thing about it all. I just want to go back home to Poznan. No stopping. Just take me back.
‘I have my family waiting at home for Christmas. My wife and young children will be so upset if I do not make it in time.
‘At this rate, I think we might miss out as it is 15 hours back to Poland even after getting to France.
‘There are hundreds of vans and lorries here with many more on the roads and at Manston Airport. Even if they make a decision, I have no idea how they will release the queues.
‘The information on Sunday evening just three hours before closing is scandalous. It is difficult to describe the people who made that decision.
‘I never would have come to the UK if I was given that time to prepare. Now I have spent two nights in traffic.
‘No one has come to see us with food or anything. We have storage for three days but now we are having to go to the shops for food and water.
‘The bigger problem is the toilets in the city centre as there is a lot of drivers having to use them.
‘It is not a pretty sight.’
Trucker Elvis Abdulcair, 43, has a shipment full of Christmas cards and presents posted from England to Romania in his van.
He fears they will not be delivered in time for the big day on December 25.
Mr Abdulcair, who is driving with colleague Daniel Dragomir, also 43, said: ‘I feel like Santa Claus with no reindeers. My sleigh is grounded.
Dover was filled with lorries looking to make The Channel crossing today, but who were turned away. Around 950 trucks are parked on the M20 tonight as Britain tries to reach a deal with France to end its travel ban
Labour says there is capacity for 300,000 tests to be sent down to Dover from other sites including one in London (above) in a bid to end miles of queuing. A government source said: ‘We are trying to avoid it, but we are doing the work to get testing capacity and the infrastructure down to Kent in case we need it’
Experts warn lateral flow kits behind No10’s bold ambition barely work ‘as Government scraps plan to open rapid-turnaround coronavirus test centres’
Number 10’s ambitious Operation Moonshot came under fire from top scientists today amid fears the rapid coronavirus tests being rolled out across the UK aren’t good enough as ministers shelved plans to open up mass testing centres over Christmas.
Moonshot has been slated as way to use the rapid kits – which cost a fraction of the price of gold-standard PCR tests – to test millions of people and help them get back onto flights abroad, into stadiums and venues, and to keep children in classrooms.
Lateral flow swabs give results in minutes but miss around half of infections, by the Department of Health’s own admission. But damning evidence shows they may be effectively useless when self-administered, despite Downing Street’s current testing scheme relying on people taking their own swabs.
French President Emmanuel Macron has even specifically called for lorry drivers travelling across the Channel from Britain to be tested using higher-quality PCR as the nations continue to clash over the roadblock in Kent.
If rapid tests miss huge proportions of cases they will trigger outbreaks caused by people who think they’ve got the all-clear but are actually infected, experts fear.
The tests are more accurate when swabs are carried out by trained professionals because they have to be pushed deep inside the nose or throat. But scientists fear Britain simply doesn’t have the money or enough spare medics to do this nationwide every day, with health chiefs instead accepting DIY swabs to save time.
Government departments have forked out hundreds of millions of pounds on different types of the lateral flow tests for use on the public and in hospitals, and they’re being trialled by councils across the country to try and weed out silent infections.
But concerns about their accuracy have reportedly led to plans to open mass testing centres over Christmas being shelved, with public health directors raising fears that led to the programme being scaled back, The Guardian reported.
Firms making the three tests approved by the Department of Health claim they are between 95 and 99 per cent accurate at detecting cases in lab conditions, but early real-word trials suggest tests don’t live up to manufacturers’ accuracy claims. However, some companies insist their tests are for ‘medical professional use only’, meaning the Government is not using them in the right way.
Scientists warn they give a false sense of security because no test is good enough to rule out an infection in someone who doesn’t have symptoms, and they don’t prevent them picking up the virus on their way home from the test.
‘It is very bad because all these people will not have their cards and presents from their family in time for Christmas.
‘The French government is s***. They have ruined it for everyone. And for what?
‘I have been here two days now and don’t know how much longer it will go on for.
‘I just want to go home.’
Driver Raicu Alexandru, 25, was trapped bringing a minivan of 10 Romanian nationals who had been working at a British chicken farm home for Christmas.
He said: ‘We are very angry. It has been 24 hours on the side of the road now and we still need to go through France, Holland, Belgium, Germany, Hungary and Czech Republic to get home.
‘Its over 2,000 kilometres and will take more than 24 hours.
‘And we still do not know how long we will be here. No one has told us anything.
‘If we cross tonight then we could get back before Christmas but it does not look good.
‘We have been given no food or water. None of us are from here and have no idea where to buy food or go to the toilet.
‘We have a few supplies but are running low so need to find a market. It’s worrying.’
The PM and the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps claimed the crisis showed the UK is ready for a no trade deal Brexit on December 31 should Britain and Brussels be unable to strike an accord in the coming days.
It is thought the disruption caused by France’s travel ban could last until Christmas Eve, with Mr Macron insisting that lorry drivers will have to present proof they have tested negative for coronavirus before they are allowed into the country.
The ban forced Dover to close to all freight vehicles leaving the UK for 48 hours, plunging the port into chaos with 23 mile long queues as panic-buying broke out in some parts of Britain amid fears of a shortage of fresh food. Some 10,000 lorries a day travel through Dover.
Hauliers were still allowed to come to the UK from the continent but there were fears many drivers would not travel in order to avoid being ‘marooned’ in Kent.
Mr Johnson stressed the delays were ‘only occurring at Dover’ and they ‘only affect human-handled freight’ which represents about 20 per cent of the total arriving from or going to the European continent.
He hinted at frustration at Mr Macron’s ban as he said the coronavirus risk posed by a single driver in a lorry is ‘really very low’.
He said: ‘I want to stress that we in the UK fully understand the anxieties of our friends about Covid, their anxieties about the new variant, but it is also true that we believe the risks of transmission by a solitary driver sitting alone in the cab are really very low and so we hope to make progress as fast as we possibly can.’
Pushed on when UK lorry drivers will be allowed back onto the continent, Mr Johnson replied: ‘Yes, it was an excellent conversation with the French President. He stressed he was keen, I would say, to sort it out in the next few hours if we can.
‘Our teams will be working on it flat out. If we can get a result then that will be great. We will do it as fast as we can.’
The disruption at Dover comes with less than two weeks to go until the end of the ‘standstill’ post-Brexit transition period on December 31. The two sides are yet to agree a trade deal and Mr Johnson has repeatedly stressed he is willing to split from the bloc without an accord.
Downing Street has ruled out an extension to the transition period despite growing calls to push back the talks deadline because of the chaos caused by the mutant coronavirus. Critics believe the UK’s ports will not be able to cope with the double hit of coronavirus and a disorderly divorce from Brussels.
But Mr Johnson said: ‘It remains the case that WTO terms would be more than satisfactory for the UK and we can certainly cope with any difficulties that are thrown in our way, not that we don’t want a deal, but WTO terms would be entirely satisfactory. Prosper mightily remains an extremely good description of life after January 1 either way.’
Meanwhile, Mr Shapps said the travel ban had shown the UK is ‘ready’ should trade talks fail, telling the press conference: ‘Some of the reasons why we have not seen big problems in Kent today is actually the transition period work that has been going on for many months and years even is coming to fruition, a couple of weeks earlier than anticipated.’
He added: ‘To a large extent it has shown that we are ready.’
The French government has pledged to ‘resume movement’ as soon as possible, with the Port of Dover saying inbound lorries are now coming into the UK.
However, the top French haulage union has stoked fears of a driver strike, with an official warning ‘no trucker wants to deliver’ to Britain because of the new strain of coronavirus. A Eurotunnel official said he did not expect British lorries to arrive in France until Christmas Eve.
Currently, new lorry arrivals are being sent to Manston Airport, where there is space for 4,000 lorries, while around 200 other truckers have travelled to Ashford International Truckstop.
The French government has pledged to ‘resume movement’ as soon as possible, with the Port of Dover saying inbound lorries are now coming into the UK
The PM and the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps claimed the crisis showed the UK is ready for a no trade deal Brexit on December 31 should Britain and Brussels be unable to strike an accord in the coming days
Operations Stack and Brock: Emergency transport plans activated after France’s Covid travel ban
Operation Stack is an emergency transport plan that uses parts of the M20 to queue lorries travelling towards the continent.
The aim of the scheme, first introduced in 1988, is designed to avoid causing gridlock across Kent’s roads.
It is used in emergency situations when crossings to the continent cannot happen, such as bad weather or industrial action.
In a bid to ease congestion towards Dover, Operation Stack has been activated on the coast-bound M20 following France’s UK travel ban.
By 2007, the system had been implemented 74 times in the 20 years since it was first introduced. The scheme was superseded by Operation Brock as part of the UK’s contingency plan for a No Deal Brexit.
Operation Brock is a traffic management system designed to keep Kent’s roads open if there is disruption at the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel.
It was designed to be used in the event of a No Deal Brexit, to mitigate against anticipated travel disruption around Dover.
When Operation Brock is in force HGVs travelling to Port of Dover and Eurotunnel must use the signed routes only.
Enforcement officials will be deployed to intercept vehicles trying to use alternative routes.
Drivers who are caught will be turned around and risk a £300 fine.
Signs, diversions, and speed restrictions will be in place to help drivers reach designated holding areas.
Kent Police take decisions on when to use the different phases of the system, depending on the scale of any disruption.
Operation Brock was put in force overnight.
Countries including Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Austria, Denmark, Finland and Ireland, as well as several non-European nations, have announced restrictions on UK travel following the outbreak of the new strain across south east England.
The closure could have far-reaching consequences for British businesses, with Scottish fishing firms set to lose more than £6million as more than 100 lorries filled with salmon are affected.
Scottish Seafood Association chief executive Jimmy Buchan told the BBC the industry was facing a ‘disaster,’ adding: ‘For example, one relatively small company has £230,000 worth of live shellfish stuck at the border, with a further £250,000 worth ready to go.
‘Another bigger outfit has £500,000 worth at Dover, and an additional £750,000 ready for despatch, all of which are just-in-time exports for the Christmas market.’
The impact is also being felt among seafood businesses as well. Graham Flannigan, of Berwick Shellfish Company, in Berwick-upon-Tweed, in the north east, told BBC Radio 4: ‘This is the busiest time of the year for us. We rely on December to be the busiest and heaviest amount of exports, and we lost it. Crab, velvet crab, langoustines, all stuff that is vital for the French and Spanish markets.
‘We’ve had to bring stuff back up the A1, back up the motorways, because it is crucially perishable. It is live seafood, so we’ve got a very short span where it has got to be delivered to market.
Chris Sparshott, of Sparshott Fruiters in St Albans, also told the Today programme: ‘With fresh produce you have to got buy fresh every single day. But when you are faced with a situation where if you don’t buy today you will let down hundreds of people, which is what the situation is at the moment.
‘I’ve got 200 orders to fulfil up to Christmas Eve so far. I could easily have taken another 200 orders but I don’t want to let people down.
‘People are panic buying now, I’ve noticed people are starting to place orders for January, so they are panicking about getting produce after Christmas.’
The situation has caused havoc at Britain’s ports with John Keefe, from Eurotunnel, warning lorries wouldn’t be able to arrive in France until Christmas Eve.
He said: ‘What we are waiting for the French to announce is what the protocol will be to restart movement in the UK to France direction.
‘We expect it will be something around testing,’ he said, speculating that it could be something akin to a negative coronavirus test within 72 hours of travelling would be sufficient to cross the border. We are hoping that it’s going to be something along those lines then people will be able to start thinking about travel again from Wednesday-Thursday.’
Adding to the chaos, Vanessa Ibarlucea, spokeswoman for France’s FNTR national road haulage federation, said: ‘They [drivers] are stuck in lorry parks with no toilets – it’s becoming a catastrophe. No driver wants to deliver to the UK now, so the UK is going to see its freight supply dry up.’
Thousands of lorries that were meant to travel across the English Channel on Monday were told to stay away from Kent ports and HGVs turning up at Dover this morning were greeted with glowing signs saying ‘French borders closed’ and were turned away.
The travel ban led to people and goods from the UK being blocked from entering France via air, sea or the Channel Tunnel with fresh food left to rot on roads and in traffic queues.
It also led to concerns that the chaos could disrupt supplies of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to the UK which is made in Belgium – with military aircraft set to airlift supplies if the ban lasts for longer than 48 hours.
The ban added to several pre-existing issues already gripping the ports, including stockpiling fears over a No-Deal Brexit, increased demand for goods over Christmas and a lack of shipping containers amid the coronavirus pandemic.
It also triggered panic-buying, with shoppers queuing at supermarkets from 5.50am this morning to stock up on essentials following the news.
Sainsbury’s has warned of several popular items being unavailable over the coming days: ‘If nothing changes, we will start to see gaps over the coming days on lettuce, some salad leaves, cauliflowers, broccoli and citrus fruit – all of which are imported from the Continent at this time of year. We hope the UK and French governments can come to a mutually agreeable solution that prioritises the immediate passage of produce and any other food at the ports.’
Despite the chaos, Mr Shapps insisted yesterday that people ‘wouldn’t notice’ any supermarket shortages: ‘The absolute key is to get this resolved as soon as possible.’
‘There’s a meeting taking place actually right now in Europe about it, in order to co-ordinate approaches. It’s not really in anybody’s particular interest to not have hauliers going across, not least because they are mostly European hauliers and the goods are mostly theirs, so they will not want them perishing any more than we would want the border closed.’
He also attempted to calm fears about the wider impact of the French decision: ‘The supply chain is pretty robust in as much as you get variations in supply all the time. For the most part, people won’t notice it.’
Mr Johnson faced demands to recall Parliament to address the crisis, which follows the introduction of a new Tier 4 level of lockdown on London and large parts of south-east England.
He held talks with Ministers this afternoon as he chaired the Government’s Cobra civil contingencies committee amid warnings of ‘significant disruption’ around the Channel ports in Kent.
Kent Police implemented Operation Stack to ease congestion, while the Department for Transport said the disused Manston Airport was also being prepared as another contingency measure against the anticipated level of disruption, with plans to store 4,000 stranded HGVs there.
Last night, Highways England said it was upgrading measures to Operation Brock – which will see a temporary concrete barrier moved into the middle of the London-bound carriageway of the motorway to allow traffic to travel in both directions while lorries are held.
India announced this morning that all flights from Britain would be suspended until December 31 and Hong Kong is also due to ban all flights from midnight. Asian nations including Japan and South Korea said they were closely monitoring the new strain.
Australia said on Monday it had detected cases of the new virulent coronavirus strain. Two travellers from the UK to Australia’s New South Wales state were found carrying the mutated variant of the virus.
French health minister Olivier Veran said on Monday that it was possible the new strain was already circulating in France, although recent tests had not detected it in the country.
‘It is entirely possible that the virus is circulating in France,’ Veran said, after his country introduced the ban on British lorries.
Among those at the Port of Dover are 80 workers who had travelled down from the West Midlands on a coach to go home for Christmas. They are now stuck for at least next two days and have nowhere to stay, with all hotels closed.
Mr Shapps insisted that coronavirus vaccine doses will not be affected by the travel ban, telling Sky News today: ‘Most vaccine doesn’t come via what is called ‘Ro-Ro’, roll-on, roll-off, which is what we are talking about here.
‘In other words, it’s not usually accompanied by a driver, by a haulier. It comes on those containers. To put this into context, there are about 6,000 vehicles we would expect, just under in Dover today, probably 4,000 would have gone across from Dover, just under about 2,000 on the Eurotunnel.
‘But there is probably something like 32,000 units that would have been the daily total, so the vast majority – including virtually all the vaccine – actually comes via container and there are good supplies in the meantime. So this won’t have an impact on the vaccination programme.’
Mr Shapps admitted that France’s ban on freight hauliers was ‘slightly surprising’, adding: ‘Immediately as soon as the French said, perhaps slightly surprisingly that they would stop hauliers, rather than just passengers, we were in touch with a group known as the Kent Resilience Forum. They are well used to planning for exactly these kind of circumstances
‘We will be opening up Manston as a lorry park today and providing welfare for some of those drivers as well, while also being in very close contact with the French over what will happen next.
‘The Kent Dover-to-Calais Eurotunnel, what we call the short straits, is probably about 20% of goods going to and from, in and out of the country.
Police remain along the coastbound carriageway of the M20 between Maidstone and Ashford, where lorries are being held
Stranded drivers said today they had heard that spaces were filling up across Kent’s lorry parks and lay-bys. Boriswav, from Bulgaria, managed to get a space at a site in Ashford tonight
Foreign lorry drivers, including Romanian Christian, have parked up at Ashford lorry park tonight amid chaos at Dover
The Road Haulage Association tonight said it was ‘anyone’s guess,’ how a programme of testing at the border could be rolled out, as lorries continue to be held on the M20
Kent County Council said it had provided snacks and bottled water ‘throughout the day,’ as lorries were left stranded in the county
An angry lorry driver trying to get into the Port of Dover. All freight and passenger traffic have been banned for 48 hours due to the new mutant strain of coronavirus
Lorries parked on the M20 near Folkestone, Kent, as part of Operation Stack after the Port of Dover was closed and access to the Eurotunnel terminal suspended following the French government’s announcement that it will not accept any passengers arriving from the UK for the next 48 hours
A ferry stands docked at the port of Calais, northern France. France has banned all travel from the UK for 48 hours in an attempt to make sure that a new strain of the coronavirus in Britain doesn’t reach its shores
The news triggered panic-buying, with shoppers queueing at supermarkets from 5.50am this morning to stock up on essentials following the news
The shelves were emotied of fresh stock as large numbers of shoppers descended on supermarkets this morning amid news of a French travel ban. The Port of Dover has confirmed lorries carrying essential items are now inbound from France
How many swabs would be needed, is there enough capacity and how long will it take? The key questions surrounding testing lorry drivers at Dover to end French border blockage
How many tests will be required each day?
Around 6,000 lorries were due to travel between the UK and France yesterday, but on a busy day the Dover Strait can handle up to 10,000.
Is there enough unused testing capacity?
Yes, according to Labour which has said any spare testing capacity should be used to help end the chaos at Dover.
Rachel Reeves, Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said the Government should urgently direct mobile testing centres and spare testing capacity to ports.
She said official figures show unused testing capacity is around 300,000 tests per day – and that over December on average, only 50 per cent of capacity was used.
And a Government source told the Daily Telegraph: ‘Testing is time-consuming and sets a precedent for post-transition. We are trying to avoid it, but we are doing the work to get testing capacity and the infrastructure down to Kent in case we need it.’
What is the Government actively doing?
Home Secretary Priti Patel told Sky News this morning that Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is having ‘discussions’ with the UK’s counterparts in France.
She added that ‘we will find a resolution and these suggestions (on testing) are absolutely part of the discussion’, adding that Ministers are ‘considering everything’.
Will it actually happen?
The Department of Transport has not shed any light on the situation, saying it could not comment on testing until a deal with France had been reached.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has made a personal appeal to Emmanuel Macron to end the travel ban, which was raised amid concerns over the new strain of Covid-19.
But as an agreement failed to materialise, the Government is now said to be working on increasing testing capacity in Kent should the French president not back down.
How do hauliers expect testing to work?
While high-level talks continue, the Road Haulage Association has said it is unclear how a programme of testing at the border could be rolled out.
Its spokesman Paul Mummery told MailOnline: ‘Until we can understand what that process looks like, it’s difficult to gauge whether freight can start running again.
‘This is something they will want to do very, very quickly, but what that looks like is anyone’s guess.’
What do the French say?
France indicated yesterday that it will open up to lorries from Britain again, but demanded drivers register a negative test.
Emmanuel Macron confirmed authorities could demand ‘PCR tests are presented as being negative upon the arrival on (French) territory.’
This would mean people trying to get to France from Britain would need to present some form of certificate to get into the country.
It is unclear what will happen if someone arrives at the border without proof of a negative test.
How long will the test take?
A PCR test can take two to three days to come back, suggesting drivers would be required to get tested in the UK before they leave for France.
How much would it cost?
It’s unclear how much a single test would cost the UK Government but the prices vary widely depending on which private company is used.
The Road Haulage Association has said it remained unclear who would cover the cost of testing drivers, should the plan go ahead.
Because the test involves a swab, it will need to be tested in a lab. This, combined with the fact that it is globally recognised, drives the prices up.
The Smart Clinic, in London, charges clients £195 for a PCR test with independent lab testing. Pall Mall medical charges £129 for the same test.
What are the problems and is there another option?
The French plan to force all arrivals to present a negative PCR test on entry would cause significant logistical problems for the government and make French hauliers less likely to want to travel in Britain.
A less disruptive option would see the French and British governments agree to exempt hauliers on the basis that most of them travel alone in isolated cabs.
How did the crisis at Dover happen?
France closed its border with the UK late on Sunday, initially for 48 hours, as more than 40 countries banned flights from Britain over a new, faster-spreading strain of coronavirus.
The Channel Tunnel remained open for UK-bound traffic but many French hauliers stayed in France.
How did ministers react?
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps held crisis talks with his French counterpart yesterday as the Government warned hauliers to avoid travelling to ports facing France.
Operation Stack – whereby the M20 is used for queues of HGVs heading to the coast – was put in place and Manston Airport, an ex-RAF base near Ramsgate, Kent, was readied as a holding pen for thousands of lorries. Both measures are part of No Deal Brexit planning.
How is this being resolved?
French government officials initially said the blockade could be resolved ‘within hours’. But there were no signs of a breakthrough yesterday evening and crisis talks between Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron are ongoing.
Will we face food shortages?
Shoppers have been urged to not panic buy and ministers have played down the threat of shortages.
They point out that supermarkets have been stockpiling for weeks due to Brexit and many imports come in via unaccompanied freight, which is not affected by the ban.
Sainsbury’s has warned of possible shortages of lettuce, broccoli and citrus fruit this week. At this time of year we also get most of our tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers from Europe though most Christmas dinner vegetables are grown in the UK.
Will we still get deliveries of the Covid vaccine?
Mr Shapps said that while some lorries transport the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, it is mostly imported in unaccompanied containers unaffected by the restrictions.
Does this relate to Brexit?
The border closure will be seen by some as political point scoring by Mr Macron, a Brexit critic. Long lines of queuing lorries could also be a taste of things to come.
‘But it’s not the mainstay. Most goods actually come in and out by unaccompanied containers and those will continue to flow.’
Asked about what the shortages could be, Mr Shapps said: ‘Obviously we don’t want these links to be closed for too long, but it’s not unusual for them to be closed and disrupted.
‘In the short term it’s not a specific problem. But of course the key is to get it resolved.’
The chief executive of the Road Haulage Association (RHA), Richard Burnett, said the disruption could cause problems with ‘fresh food supply’ in the run-up to Christmas.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘With it being so close to Christmas we’re looking at 48 hours at this point in time in terms of the restrictions, we’re likely to see Operation Stack building in terms of numbers of vehicles on the UK side and that might be a deterrent for EU hauliers to want to come so close to Christmas and end up being stranded here, that’s part of the challenge that we’re facing today.’
Food and Drink Federation chief executive Ian Wright said last night: ‘Tonight’s suspension of accompanied freight traffic from the UK to France has the potential to cause serious disruption to UK Christmas fresh food supplies and exports of UK food and drink.
‘Continental truckers will not want to travel here if they have a real fear of getting marooned. The Government must very urgently persuade the French government to exempt accompanied freight from its ban.’
He told BBC Breakfast yesterday: ‘The problem is the return journey of drivers coming to the UK. If they cannot be guaranteed either that they will get out of the UK because of the congestion or that they will be able to secure a return journey full of whatever product it is, that’s going to make it much more unlikely for them to come in the first place.
‘And, over time, because the transport system requires these round trips, that will reduce the ability of us to bring food into the country after Christmas if that takes effect.
‘We need a pragmatic solution that gets drivers across the border and into the UK by whatever route in exactly the same way we had throughout the lockdown in March and in the earlier part of the year.’
Road Haulage Association (RHA) boss Richard Burnett, said the ‘fresh food supply where it’s short shelf life and there will be product on its way now, that’s where the challenge kind of comes from’ after France banned lorries carrying freight from the UK amid fears over the new mutant coronavirus strain.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘The concern that we do have though is that with it being so close to Christmas we’re looking at 48 hours at this point in time in terms of the restrictions, we’re likely to see Operation Stack building in terms of numbers of vehicles on the UK side and that might be a deterrent for EU hauliers to want to come so close to Christmas and end up being stranded here, that’s part of the challenge that we’re facing today.
‘I think what Government are looking at, at this point in time, is actually bringing forward their contingency plans that they’d got laid out for the New Year in terms of (post-Brexit) transition and potentially if we start to see a significant number of vehicles parked on the M20 then we may well actually open up some of the truck parks in Kent, possibly Manston in order to take high levels of vehicles.
‘I did have a conversation with Grant Shapps (Transport Secretary) last night and he has assured me that he’s working hard with his French counterparts to ensure this issue is resolved as quickly as possible.’
The leader of Kent County Council said a disused airport could be brought in to cope with queues of lorries coming into the county.
Speaking on Times Radio, Roger Gough said: ‘I think the Government has done what is essential, which is to seek to discourage vehicles from coming to Kent.
‘That was in fact something that we’ve been pushing on very hard in relation to the end of transition.
‘We had plans pretty well set up for coping with the 7,000 vehicles, which was what the Government called its reasonable worst-case scenario.
‘What we were concerned about was what might happen if you got to that point and the vehicles kept coming.
‘The Department for Transport, I understand, is due to bring in the use of Manston Airport, the old airport site, which would be the next stage.
‘I think that’s where we’ll be heading next in terms of managing the issue, in terms of lorries.’
The general manager of trade group Logistics UK, formerly the Freight Transport Association, has urged the public not to panic-buy following France’s freight lorry ban.
Alex Veitch said the Government needs to work with EU partners to come up with a pragmatic solution to give the French and other authorities confidence that drivers are Covid-free.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, he said: ‘This is why we are saying at the current time, please, there is no need to panic-buy, there are goods available in the shops, retailers are doing everything they can.
‘But at the same time it is serious and we do need a resolution as quickly as possible.’
Italian authorities announced the mutant strain had been detected in a traveller who recently returned to the country from the UK.
With France suspending all traffic from the UK for 48 hours, it raised fears that trade flows could be severely disrupted while passengers across Europe could be left stranded in the final run-up to Christmas.
A No 10 spokesman said: ‘The Prime Minister will chair a Cobra meeting to discuss the situation regarding international travel, in particular the steady flow of freight into and out of the UK.
‘Further meetings are happening this evening and tomorrow morning to ensure robust plans are in place.’
Dozens of articulated lorries, mainly foreign registered, drove slowly down to the port entrance sounding their horns to air their frustrations at the Covid blockade this afternoon.
The queue of trucks drove down the A2 on the edge of Dover – where trucks have been parked up for hours – and drove down the Jubilee Way flyover from the top of the white cliffs of Dover down to the roundabout in front of the port entrance before heading back up the hill.
A Government spokesperson said: ‘The French Transport Minister has said they’re hoping to establish a protocol to ensure that movement from the UK can resume as soon as possible. However we must continue to prepare for disruption in Kent.
‘To control the flow of hauliers to the continent Operation Stack has been implemented and the lorry holding facility at Manston is now ready. We remain in close contact with Kent Resilience Forum and are working with local stakeholders to manage the situation.
‘While traffic heading towards the continent has initially been low today, we must continue to urge everybody – including all hauliers – to avoid travelling to Kent ports until further notice.’
Lorry drivers stuck in queues near the Port of Dover shared their frustrations.
They were turned away from the main entrance to the port by two staff members wearing Hi-Vis jackets shouting ‘it’s closed’.
Haulier Matt Richards, 50, from Wolverhampton was stuck in his vehicle from 8pm after he was trapped in by other vans.
Mr Richard’s, who had a cargo full of Land Rover parts intended for the continent, said: ‘I was driving towards the Port when my phone started pinging about the closure.
Lorries queue during operation stack on the M20 towards Dover after France introduced the new travel ban on British hauliers
Sedat from Turkey eats a traditional breakfast out of his lorry as he waits in a service station on the M20 on December 21 amid the port chaos
Claudio from Italy installs a satellite dish on the side of his cab to watch TV as he waits for travel restrictions to be lifted
80 workers who have travelled down from the West Midlands to go home for Christmas are stuck on a coach at Dover today
‘It’s absolutely ridiculous to make such a last minute snap decision. They should have given everyone a bit more time to prepare.
‘I pulled into the garage at 8pm when I realised I wasn’t going to get across through Port but then these other vans have blocked me in so I can’t get out.
‘I only want to get home to Wolverhampton now.’
Mr Richard’s, who delivered two £1million Covid-19 testing machines to Toulouse, France last week, was set to bring another to Italy by December 28 but now fears he won’t be able to make it.
‘I’ve been driving to Europe for 30 years and I remember getting stuck in Romania in the 1990s ahead of Christmas when there was a hard border.
‘So I do feel sorry for all these people stuck in an unknown country not knowing whether they’re going to be able to get home to see their loved ones.
‘But we should never have been in this situation in the first place if everyone had been a bit stricter with the coronavirus regulations.
‘The only thing that can contain this is a full lockdown.’
Van driver Keith Silvestre, 42, also from Wolverhampton was carrying urgent gas parts to the Continent when he found out the Port was closing.
This shopper was seen with a very full trolley just days before Christmas as people rushed to the shops for festive supplies
Stocks of loo roll were in short supply this morning, echoing scenes from earlier in the pandemic when panic buyers stripped the shelves of toilet tissue
Washing powers and products also appeared to be popular products with shoppers who flocked to the shops this morning
Long lines started forming outside of this Waitrose superstore in Henleaze near Brisol this morning as people tried to stock up on festive supplies
After also being stuck at the BP garage for more than 14 hours, he said: ‘I’ve just had to abort the job entirely.
‘The government have a lot to answer for. But more so the French government.
Tory MPs urge the Government to ‘come clean’, recall Parliament and present them with ALL of the evidence about the mutant coronavirus strain
Boris Johnson is facing a mounting Tory rebellion over his latest coronavirus crackdown as Conservative MPs demand the Government recall Parliament so ministers can ‘come clean’ over the new mutant strain of the disease.
Senior Tory figures have blasted the Government’s decision to tighten Covid curbs over Christmas and to impose a new Tier 4 lockdown after MPs went on holiday.
They claimed the timing of the announcement by the Prime Minister on Saturday was ‘convenient’ amid accusations Number 10 knew last week it was going to increase restrictions.
Tory MPs said this morning the Government had again been ‘bounced by the science’ despite experts having previously got their forecasts and modelling wrong.
They accused Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance of ‘stepping back into the shadows when it suits them’ to leave ministers to take the flak for controversial decisions.
The growing revolt came as Mr Johnson held crisis talks with ministers after France banned lorries carrying freight from the UK and countries around the world ended flights to Britain amid fears of the new coronavirus variant.
The Prime Minister will chair a meeting of the Government’s Cobra civil contingencies committee this morning after warnings of ‘significant disruption’ around the Channel ports in Kent.
Hauliers were urged to stay away from the area because of potential problems as the end of the Brexit transition period also looms on December 31.
Kent Police said they were implementing Operation Stack in a bid to ease potential congestion, while the Department for Transport said Manston Airport was also being prepared as another contingency measure against the anticipated level of disruption.
‘I hope it’s not political but it does feel like it could be payback for something.
‘It’s like what we did to them during the first lockdown with the quarantine for incoming travellers.
‘As soon as we announced this mutant strain they’ve all panicked and made a rash decision. Its probably over there already anyway.’
A coach was parked in a live lane of the A20 outside the petrol station.
It was carrying around 40 Romanian nationals, including young children, back to their homeland for Christmas.
Passenger Alex Enusoiu, 30, was heading home after working in a Sainsbury’s in Birmingham during the pandemic.
He said: ‘We’ve been stuck for 12 hours. There is no place else for us to go.
‘We are trying to keep morale high on the bus and everyone feeling good.
‘But we do not know whether we will make it home for Christmas to see our families anymore.
‘I’m not sure what’s going to happen next and people are worried that we could be stuck here.’
Damien Doherty, 43, was waiting to collect an empty container after dropping off a crate of fish in Boulogne, France.
The trucker from Donegal, Ireland said: ‘I was literally the last lorry in the Port last night before they shut it. Thankfully I managed to get it shipped out in time as it’s a very expensive load of perishable fish. Now I’ve been stuck here ever since. My wife is worried sick I won’t be home for Christmas.
‘As it’s an empty container, I don’t think it’s a priority for me to pick it back up. But I’m hoping I’ll be out of here by 9pm tonight.
‘It’s a very strange decision for the French government to make. It definitely feels political rather than practical.’
Eric Johnson, 50, Dave King, 48, and Dean Hammond, 31, all from Birmingham, dropped off their cargo at the Port of Dover at around 10am.
They had hoped to bring the Caterpillar heavy machinery parts to Lokeren, Belgium.
But now they face a frantic dash home to enjoy Christmas with their families.
Mr King said sarcastically: ‘I’m feeling absolutely ecstatic about this. It’s just what we needed after a hard year.
‘We’ve been told we won’t be able to go over for at least two days so it’s going to be cutting it very fine to be back for Christmas.
‘It’s all politics really and seems like they’re using the virus as an excuse. If you don’t play their game, this is what you get.’
Mr Johnson said: ‘We are just waiting to find out what happens now.
‘Apparently all the laybys nearby are booked up and the truck stops are basically full too.
‘For a lot of us getting here later on, there’s nowhere else to go.
‘As long as I’m back home by 11.30am on Christmas day for my turkey lunch, I don’t care.
‘These things do unfortunately happen when you’re in logistics – it’s not often very logical.’
Mr Hammond said: ‘All we can do now is have a walk to stretch our legs and get some food. But this miserable weather makes that a chore too.
‘The fact this is tier four and everything is shut makes it even harder. There’s nowhere for us to go.
‘I just hope I’m back home in time for Christmas. I still believe we can make it in time.’
Santos Filipe, 54, brought a cargo of vegetables to England from Spain at 11am on Monday morning with the intention of returning the same afternoon.
People braved the rain to wait in line and do their shopping earlier than normal before Christmas Day at the Henleaze Waitrose store
Staple items like bread were in short supply at this Iceland supermarket in north London this morning
Nicola Sturgeon demands Brexit delay: Scottish leader says new Covid strain makes it ‘unconscionable’ for Britain to leave EU when transition ends on Dec 31
Nicola Sturgeon has said it is ‘imperative’ that the Prime Minister tries to get an extension to the Brexit transition period after the discovery of a faster-spreading coronavirus strain.
Scotland’s First Minister said the UK faces a ‘profoundly serious situation’ because of the virus mutation and warned it would be ‘unconscionable’ to leave the European Union at the end of the year.
The Brexit transition period is due to end on December 31 but Ms Sturgeon has called for an extension amid strict new lockdown measures to try to tackle the new coronavirus strain.
She wrote on Twitter: ‘It’s now imperative that PM seeks an agreement to extend the Brexit transition period. The new Covid strain – & the various implications of it – means we face a profoundly serious situation, & it demands our 100% attention.
‘It would be unconscionable to compound it with Brexit.’
However, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps insisted this morning that the transition period would not be looked at.
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘I think the one thing which could actually add fuel to the fire would be ending something that everyone’s known is ending for a very long time, which is the end of the transition period which completes on the 31st December, so absolutely not, no.
‘The important thing is that businesses continue to prepare, that individuals are prepared and as I say, as it happens, it’s because we’ve got some of those contingencies in place, for example being able to open up Manston as a lorry park for what’s actually happening today, that planning is in place, because of all the work that’s gone on with the Kent Resilience Forum and others preparing for the end of the transition, in any case.’
But he now fears he may not be able to return home to native Portugal to enjoy the festivities.
He said: ‘We all feel awful that we might miss Christmas after everything this terrible year has given us.
‘I have had to turn off my emotions. I’m trying not to let it get to me.
‘They should have shut the border as soon as they heard of this new strain of the coronavirus.
‘Or they should be testing all drivers before they leave while stopping normal passengers from travelling.
‘We are key workers who have helped keep the world going throughout this pandemic and we are repaid with these rash decisions.
‘I don’t know how long this will take. They said we may get information this nmorning but we were shown papers at the border which said it would be at nleast two days.’
Remi Martysz, from Kent-based logistics firm Salvatori, said France’s decision to close the border to UK lorries would cause lots of disruption to businesses and workers.
He said: ‘It is very disruptive and will impact businesses and personal mwelfare of many involved at many different levels, not great news and definitely very bad timing.’
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps urged people including hauliers to stay away from the area around the Channel ports.
‘We expect significant disruption in the area. My department is urgently working with Highways England and Kent Council on contingency measures to minimise traffic disruption in the area,’ he said.
Earlier this month they said retailers are ‘increasing the stock of tins, toilet rolls and other longer life products so there will be sufficient supply of essential products’.
They hopes to avoid a repeat of scenes seen earlier in the pandemic, when panic buying led to empty supermarket shelves and restrictions on key items.
Supermarkets previously limited the sale of key items such as toilet roll, and staples such as rice, flour and pasta.
But the French travel ban will lead to shortages, the industry experts admitted.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was ‘imperative’ the UK Government sought an extension to the Brexit transition period.
‘The new Covid strain – and the various implications of it – means we face a profoundly serious situation, and it demands our 100 per cent attention,’ she said. ‘It would be unconscionable to compound it with Brexit.’
Germany, which holds the rotating EU presidency, announced it was calling emergency talks on Monday to co-ordinate the response of the bloc’s 27 member states.
It came after the Irish government said it was imposing a 48-hour ban on flights from Britain while ferries would be restricted to freight only.
The Netherlands said it will stop flights from the UK at least until the end of the year while Belgium has imposed a 24-hour ban on flights and rail links while it assesses the situation.
Italy is prohibiting entry to the country by anyone who has been in the UK in the last 14 days and flights are banned until January 6 while Austria, the Czech Republic, El Salvador, Turkey and Canada also imposed new restrictions.
Countries reacted after Mr Johnson announced on Saturday that the new variant was up to 70 per cent more transmissible than the original strain as he put London and parts of the South East and East of England into a two-week Christmas lockdown, with nearly 18 million people in a new Tier 4.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted the new variant coronavirus was ‘out of control’ and said the new restrictions may have to remain in place for months.
Concerns about the rapid spread of the disease were underlined with the publication of the latest official figures showing there had been a further 35,928 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK as of 9am on Sunday.
Millions of people have been forced to tear up their festive plans, with Mr Johnson effectively cancelling Christmas for those in Tier 4.
Passengers at London St Pancras train station queue to board Eurostar trains to Paris last night before the border was closed
Staff board the last scheduled Eurostar from London to Paris ahead of travel restrictions imposed by the French last night
Passengers at London’s Heathrow Airport attempted to make the last flight to Dublin last night before the Covid-19 travel ban
In the rest of England, Christmas easing is severely curtailed, with households allowed to gather for just one day – Christmas Day itself – rather than the five days previously planned, while Scotland and Wales are also restricting Christmas ‘bubbles’ to a single day.
And at an emergency meeting late on Sunday night, the Northern Ireland Executive agreed to reduce the five day Christmas bubbling arrangements to just one day.
Heathrow chaos as hundreds try to cram onto last plane to Dublin after more than a dozen countries ban ALL flights from Britain, Eurotunnel closes and French BLOCK UK lorries for 48 hours after discovery of ‘70% more infectious’ mutant Covid strain
London’s Heathrow Airport was pictured descending into chaos last night as hundreds of passengers scrambled onto the last flight to Dublin minutes before a Covid-19 travel ban set in at midnight to nations across Europe including Ireland.
Boris Johnson will chair a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergency committee today after more than a dozen countries – initially in Europe and then around the world – announced they were stopping flights from the UK, following the discovery of the ’70 per cent more infectious’ mutant coronavirus strain which plunged London and the south east into Tier Four.
Huge queues were seen at London Heathrow Airport last night
France joined Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Finland and Denmark in banning all flights carrying passengers from the UK into Europe for at least a 48 hour period, with some suspending flights into the New Year, while assessing the new strain.
Israel, Turkey, Morocco, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and El Salvador later followed suit, while pressure was last night mounting on the United States to take action after Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said Canada was putting a 72-hour stop on travel from the UK.
Crowds of people had packed into Heathrow Terminal 5 to await updates of a reportedly overbooked British Airways flight, operated by Aer Lingus, which was scheduled to take off at 8.55pm to Dublin.
Passenger Rachael Scully, 23, tweeted that the Irish Government eventually gave the ‘green light’ for the flight which was set to leave at 10:30pm and due to land with 15 minutes to spare before the travel ban at midnight.
She wrote: ‘Irish gov have given the green light and we’ve been processed for a BA flight. Due to land at 23:45. Woops of joy once the news got out. A Christmas miracle! [sic]’
Ireland announced its temporary 48-hour travel ban on non-essential flights from Britain which came into force at midnight and includes passengers on flights and ferries.
A British Airways spokesman told MailOnline: ‘Our teams looked after customers while we urgently looked into alternative arrangements to get them on their way to Dublin as quickly as possible.’
However some Irish people tweeted the stranded Heathrow passengers to urge them to stay put following the discovery of the ’70 per cent more infectious’ mutant coronavirus strain which plunged London and the south east into Tier Four.
One commented: ‘With all due respect guys, you are traveling from one of highest infected regions with a more infectious strain of #Covid_19..You guys run the risk of bringing it to #Ireland. Please consider staying put. It’s hard I know.’
Another wrote: ‘Pls rethink your plans. You risk bringing a more contagious strain of covid to Ireland. Elderly and vulnerable people are literally spending Xmas alone, inside afraid of seeing their families. Don’t be selfish, flights from the UK to here are now being stopped for good reason [sic].’
Ministers also debated a temporary ban on travel from Great Britain to Northern Ireland because of the new Covid variant, with further discussions expected on Monday.
Dr Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, said: ‘This sharp and sudden increase is of serious concern.’
She said most of the new cases were concentrated in London and the South East – where the new strain is thought to have originated – although it was too soon to say if they were linked to it.
Last night the Department for Transport said Manston Airport was being prepared to to accommodate ‘up to 4000 lorries’ as a measure to ease congestion in Kent in the wake of the France travel ban and warned hauliers to avoid travel to Kent ports ‘until further notice’.
Kent Police implemented Operation Stack, when parts of the M20 are set aside to queue lorries headed for the Continent.
It comes after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps urged hauliers to avoid travelling to Kent ports as the closure of the France-UK border is expected to trigger ‘significant disruption’.
The French Government joined a number of other European nations in banning inbound flights from the UK in a bid to prevent the spread of a coronavirus mutation sweeping through London and the south east of England.
Mr Shapps tweeted on Monday night: ‘Following the French Government’s announcement it will not accept any passengers arriving from the UK for the next 48hrs, we’re asking the public & particularly hauliers not to travel to Kent ports or other routes to France.
‘We expect significant disruption in the area. My department is urgently working with Highways England and Kent Council on contingency measures to minimise traffic disruption in the area. We will share more details on these shortly.’
Earlier, French transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari confirmed the country was suspending all traffic from the UK from midnight for at least 48 hours.
The Port of Dover tweeted on Sunday night that its ferry terminal was ‘closed to all accompanied traffic leaving the UK until further notice due to border restrictions in France’.
On its website it said: ‘Both accompanied freight and passenger customers are asked not to travel to the Port. We understand that the restrictions will be in place for 48 hours from midnight (CET).
‘We apologise for the inconvenience and will provide an update as soon as possible.’
It added: ‘Port of Dover Cargo Terminal, Marina and other areas of the Port remain open.’
Meanwhile, Eurotunnel tweeted that its last shuttle service departing for France would leave at 9.34pm yesterday, with access to its UK site prohibited from 10pm.
Rod McKenzie, from the Road Haulage Association, told Sky News that 10,000 lorries a day crossed between Dover and Calais in France.
He added: ‘Brexit stockpiling is one thing, the Christmas rush is another thing, but the absolute hammer blow now is to close the borders for 48 hours.
‘That is a serious disruption of the all important supply chain.’
Logistics UK, formerly the Freight Transport Association, which is based in Tunbridge Wells, tweeted: ‘Logistics UK is aware of news that accompanied freight to France is being not allowed for 48 hours; we are concerned about the welfare of drivers and we are urgently seeking more information for our members.’
Tory Kent MP Sir Roger Gale urged No 10 and Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to ‘get a grip’ on the developing situation with the Britain-France border.
He tweeted: ‘Cross Channel travel chaos. Don’t try to blame the Transport Department. Time for Number Ten and ‘CDL’ to get a grip.’
Cold Chain Federation chief executive Shane Brennan said: ‘Whilst we face no shortages now, we do need urgent agreements between the UK and EU Governments to find a way to safely allow freight movements to continue. This has been possible at every other stage through the pandemic. An extended period of stopped movement now will cause significant problems for supply chains in January.’
The Belgian government also announced its borders with the UK will close at midnight on Sunday.
The Eurostar rail service said on its website yesterday evening that due to the French and Belgian border closures it was unable to run any trains from London to Paris, Brussels, Lille or Amsterdam on Monday or Tuesday.
Services from Amsterdam, Brussels and Lille to London would also not run on these days, but trains from Paris to London continue to operate.
The rail company said it planned to resume all services to and from the UK on Wednesday and was awaiting further details from relevant governments on how travel restrictions will be enforced.
It comes after queues at Dover reached 20 miles last week with long traffic jams in Calais as thousands of lorries – many full of Christmas gifts and food – tried to cross the Channel amid chaos at Britain’s container ports.
Extraordinary photographs taken from above the M20 in Kent last Friday showed how vehicles were bumper-to-bumper amid claims businesses are stockpiling in case of a No Deal Brexit at the end of the month.
And across the water in France, in Calais trucks lined dual carriageways for miles as they tried to get a ferry to Dover or the Channel Tunnel to Folkestone ahead of the busiest shopping week of the year.
Retailers say items they ordered in August for Christmas have still not arrived in Britain because of shipping chaos caused by Covid-19 in China and problems unloading in the UK seeing containers dumped in Zeebrugge, Belgium.
UK firms are haemorrhaging £1million or more because shipments have been delayed and quadrupled in price with the cost of moving a container from Qingdao, China, to the UK now at £7,500 per load – up from £2,000.
What do we know about UK’s travel restrictions so far?
A growing number of nations have banned flights from the UK in a bid to stop a mutant strain of coronavirus crossing their borders. Here are some answers to key questions on the latest changes to international travel rules:
– Which European countries have banned flights from the UK?
France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Belgium, Austria, Bulgaria, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands have all said they will halt flights arriving from the UK. The Czech Republic has imposed stricter quarantine measures for people arriving from Britain.
– Which other countries have implemented travel bans?
Turkey and Morocco have announced they will be suspending air travel from the UK, while the official Saudi Press Agency reports Saudi Arabia is also suspending international flights for one week. El Salvador is barring entry to anyone who has visited the UK in the preceding 30 days. Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said from midnight Sunday, Canada was putting a 72-hour stop on flights from the UK.
– When do the flight bans start and how long do they last?
The Netherlands ban came into force on Sunday morning, with it due to last for at least the rest of the year. Belgium’s prime minister Alexander De Croo issued a flight ban order for 24 hours starting at midnight on Sunday.
Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza said an order was signed on Sunday blocking flights from Britain and preventing anyone who had been to the UK in the last 14 days from entering Italy. The order bans plane travel until January 6.
Austria and Italy have not specified when their plans to halt flights from the UK would take place.
Germany said it was banning flights from the UK starting at midnight, Berlin time, on Sunday, with the German dpa news agency reporting it would remain in place until at least December 31.
France has banned all travel from the UK for 48 hours from midnight on Sunday.
Bulgaria said it was temporarily ceasing flights to and from the UK from midnight on Sunday.
Finland is due to suspend all passenger flights with the UK for two weeks from Monday.
Poland is also due to halt flights from midnight on Monday, though it is not yet known how long the ban will be in place.
Denmark said all flights from Great Britain would be halted for 48 hours from Monday.
– What is the situation with Ireland?
The Irish Government said on Sunday that it was imposing a 48-hour ban on flights from Britain to Ireland. The restrictions come into force at midnight on Sunday.
– Is anyone exempt from the bans?
Ireland’s transport minister Eamon Ryan said ferries will continue to operate for freight between Britain and Ireland. ‘We need haulage coming in to keep our shelves full but other passengers will be restricted,’ he said. The German government said exemptions from its flight ban include repatriation flights of planes and their crews, postal, freight or empty flights and aircraft carrying medical personnel.
The Bulgarian embassy in London said on its website that Bulgarian citizens and their families, as well as permanent residents in Bulgaria, were able to enter the country subject to a 10-day quarantine if they fly through a different country or enter Bulgaria on land or by sea.
– What discussions are taking place between governments?
An EU crisis meeting has been called for Monday to discuss the coordination of the response to coronavirus among the 27 member states. The UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) regards other countries’ travel restrictions as a matter for their own governments. It was previously understood to be in touch with international partners and monitoring the situation closely. But late on Sunday night No 10 revealed that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to chair a meeting of the UK Government’s Cobra civil contingencies committee on Monday.
– Why is this all happening?
A mutant strain of coronavirus sweeping across London and the south east of England has prompted the EU nations to start restricting inbound flights from the UK. Mr De Croo said Belgium’s flight ban was ‘out of precaution’, adding: ‘There are a great many questions about this new mutation and if it is not already on the mainland.’ The German embassy in London tweeted that flight restrictions were the result of ‘the coronavirus mutation’. On Saturday, Mr Johnson said there was ‘no evidence’ the new variant ’causes more severe illness or higher mortality’ but ‘it does appear to be passed on significantly more easily’. He said the new strain could be up to 70% more transmissible than the old virus variant.
– Are international train and ferry links running?
Eurostar said it was unable to run trains from London to Paris, Brussels, Lille or Amsterdam on Monday or Tuesday. Trains to London from Paris will continue to operate, with the rail company saying it planned to resume services to and from the UK on Wednesday. Eurotunnel said access to its UK site prohibited from 10pm after its last train left at 9.34pm.
Dover’s ferry terminal has also closed to ‘all accompanied traffic leaving the UK’ after France moved to shut its border.
– Am I allowed to travel abroad from England?
If you are living in one of the newly created Tier 4 areas, which encompasses London and parts of the south east and east of England, you must not travel abroad. Government guidance states people can only travel internationally if you are ‘legally permitted to do so, for example, because it is for work’. Across England people are advised to stay local and avoid travelling outside their area.
For those living in Tier 1, 2, and 3 areas, the guidance advises potential international travellers to ‘carefully consider whether they must travel abroad’. It advises them to ‘follow the rules in their area’ and consider the public health advice in the country they plan to visit.
Someone living outside Tier 4 can transit into or through a Tier 4 area to travel abroad if they need to. People are also warned to check travel advice from the FCDO and what rules are in place at their destination. For many countries the FCDO is advising against ‘all but essential travel’.
Ghost town London: Streets and stations are eerily empty as Tier 4 leaves capital showing little sign of life just days before Christmas – with city’s shopping centres and high streets suffering up to 75% plunge in footfall
Stark pictures this morning paint a bleak picture of London as the streets lie empty just days before Christmas.
The festive season would ordinarily be in full swing with families out doing last minute shopping and colleagues finishing off their work before getting merry and toasting the year at Christmas parties.
But the Capital was desolate this morning, with just a handful of key workers on the Tube network during rush hour, while shutters were down on shops and train stations were deserted.
Boris Johnson imposed a tough new round of restrictions on London and much of the South East on Saturday, effectively plunging more than 16million people into lockdown.
The move prompted shoppers to descend on London’s high streets in their droves on Saturday, with pictures showing Oxford Street and Regent Street flooded with panic buyers late into the night.
But as London and the South East plunged into Tier 4 restrictions at midnight, the streets emptied as people were forced to remain in their homes.
Christmas is now in chaos for millions after the Prime Minister’s eleventh hour U-turn; with panic at the tills amid fears of food shortages caused by Europe’s borders shutting and businesses facing ruin before the new year.
This comes as new data today shows that footfall in Tier 4 dropped by a staggering 75.5 per cent on Sunday.
Latest data from retail experts Springboard shows that footfall rose by 2.3 per cent across UK retail destinations in the week from Sunday, December 13 to Saturday 19.
But after Tier 4 restrictions were imposed, footfall across all retail destinations in Tier 4 is now 64.3 per cent lower than in 2019. It has declined by 75.5 per cent in shopping centres, and 71 per cent in high streets.
London Bridge would usually be thronging with commuters on a Monday – but these photos taken this morning show a very different picture
A very quiet Millennium Bridge in London this morning, after Boris Johnson effectively cancelled Christmas for almost 18 million people
The streets around St Paul’s Cathedral are without the usual tourists enjoying the festive season in the Capital
The South Bank in London was without its usual charm and merriment this morning, with traders, bars and restaurants forced to close
Leadenhall Market in the city of London, which opens 24 hours a day, was lifeless this morning – forcing shoppers to look elsewhere for last minute food and gifts
France imposed an inbound travel ban from 11pm last night amid the spread of the mutant Covid-19 strain which plunged London and the South East into Tier Four. Pictured, A Eurostar train is seen at a platform in St Pancras International railway station yesterday
There were just a handful of key workers passing through London Bridge this morning
STOCK MARKETS AND STERLING TAKE HEAVY HIT OVER COVID-19 AND BREXIT FEARS
More than £33billion was wiped off the FTSE 100 within minutes of opening today as panicked investors reacted to the devastating economic threat of a toughened lockdown, the new coronavirus strain and the continued Brexit deadlock.
Companies including British Airways owner IAG and engine maker Rolls-Royce took heavy hits, although online favourites Ocado and Just Eat Takeaway saw their shares rise.
Sterling fell heavily against the dollar and euro, down 1.79% and 1.38% respectively. A pound was worth 1.326 dollars and 1.086 euros.
Companies being hit hardest were those most impacted by the new Tier 4 restrictions – which have seen European countries stopping travel to the UK – include airlines and travel firms such as easyJet, FirstGroup, National Express, Tui, Trainline and cruise ship operator Carnival.
Shares in those firms fell between 5% and 9% across the board.
Pubs and leisure groups took a dent, with Mitchells & Butlers, Wetherspoon’s and Cineworld down 7.7%, 6.2% and 8.7% respectively.
Retailers also felt the pinch from the new restrictions in London and the South East, with non-essential stores told to close their doors, with Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group down 8.1% and WH Smith down 8%.
But online players saw boosts in share prices, with online supermarket Ocado and Just Eat Takeaway seeing shares rise 4.3% and 3.6% respectively.
As millions of people remain in the grip of draconian Tier 4 curbs it emerged today;
- The Food and Drink Federation warned of ‘serious disruption to UK Christmas fresh food supplies and exports’
- Italy said the mutant strain had been detected in a traveller who recently returned to the country from the UK
- The British Retail Consortium warned closure of France to UK traffic would create ‘difficulties’ for UK trade
- Nicola Sturgeon said it was ‘imperative’ the UK Government sought an extension to Brexit transition period
- Ireland has imposed a 48-hour ban on flights from Britain while ferries would be restricted to freight only
- Heathrow Airport descended into chaos as hundreds of passengers scrambled onto the last flight to Dublin
- Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted the new Tier 4 restrictions may have to remain in place for months
- The UK reported a further 35,928 cases yesterday as the mutant strain caused a 94.8% rise in infections
Shops, gyms, hairdressers and beauty salons have been ordered to shut again, with residents told not to leave Tier Four.
In his embarrassing U-turn, the Prime Minister also slashed a Christmas amnesty from five days to just one and cancelled get-togethers completely in Tier Four. Three days earlier he had said it would be ‘inhuman’ to do so.
London’s Underground was near-empty today, with many working from home after the draconian new rules came into play late on Saturday.
Millions are already queuing at supermarkets in a bid to buy supplies this morning, amid fears of food shortages after France introduced a new coronavirus travel ban on UK lorries.
The Port of Dover closed to all freight vehicles leaving the UK for the next 48 hours after France imposed an inbound travel ban from 11pm last night amid the spread of the mutant Covid-19 strain which plunged London and the South East into Tier Four.
But shortly after 10am this morning, the French Government said that ‘in the next few hours’ it will establish a ‘protocol to ensure that movement from the UK can resume’.
Shoppers began queuing at supermarkets from 5.50am this morning as people rushed to buy groceries before Christmas amid news of potential shortages.
And Sainsbury’s warned of several popular items being unavailable over the coming days: ‘If nothing changes, we will start to see gaps over the coming days on lettuce, some salad leaves, cauliflowers, broccoli and citrus fruit – all of which are imported from the Continent at this time of year.
‘We hope the UK and French governments can come to a mutually agreeable solution that prioritises the immediate passage of produce and any other food at the ports.’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will hold crisis talks with Ministers today as he chairs the Government’s Cobra civil contingencies committee amid warnings of ‘significant disruption’ around the Channel ports in Kent.
Kent Police implemented Operation Stack to ease congestion, while the Department for Transport said the disused Manston Airport was also being prepared as another contingency measure against the anticipated level of disruption.
Countries including France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Austria, Denmark, Ireland, and Bulgaria announced restrictions on UK travel following the outbreak of the new strain across South East England.
The Prime Minister has warned the new variant of coronavirus may be up to 70 per cent more transmissible than previous strains and could overwhelm the NHS.
But last night one scientist demanded greater transparency over the number that shut down swathes of the UK.
Carl Heneghan, Professor of Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford University’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care, expressed scepticism over the 70 per cent figure.
He said: ‘I’ve been doing this job for 25 years and I can tell you can’t establish a quantifiable number in such a short time frame.’
He added ‘every expert is saying it’s too early to draw such an inference’.
Professor Heneghan said there was no doubt this time of the year, the ‘height of the viral season’, was a difficult time for the NHS. But he said failure to put out the basis of the figures was undermining public trust.
He added: ‘I would want to have very clear evidence rather than ‘we think it’s more transmissible’ so we can see if it is or not.
‘It has massive implications, it’s causing fear and panic, but we should not be in this situation when the Government is putting out data that is unquantifiable.’
He added: ‘They are fitting the data to the evidence. They see cases rising and they are looking for evidence to explain it.’
Ahead of a meeting of the Cobra committee chaired by the Prime Minister, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said emergency measures were being put in place to cope with a backlog of lorries heading for the channel ports.
But he sought to play down the potential impact, stressing that container freight was not hit by the French ban on travellers.
The markets tumbled in response to the escalating coronavirus crisis and the looming prospect of a no-deal Brexit at the end of the transition period on December 31.
More than £33 billion was wiped off the FTSE 100 within minutes of opening, as the index dropped more than 2%, although it later recovered to a fall of around 1.4%.
Along with France, countries across the world announced restrictions on UK travel following the disclosure that the highly infectious new strain is widespread across south-east England.
Italian authorities said the mutant strain had been detected in a traveller who recently returned to the country from the UK.
French health minister Olivier Veran said it was already ‘entirely possible’ the new variant – VUI 202012/01 – was already circulating there, although tests had not detected it.
As well as affecting freight flows from Dover and the Channel Tunnel at Folkestone, the disruption will leave passengers stranded in the run-up to Christmas.
Mr Shapps attempted to calm fears about the wider impact of the French decision.
The Transport Secretary said hauliers were ‘quite used to anticipating disruption’, adding there were variations in supply ‘all the time’.
Mr Shapps said he was talking to French counterpart Jean-Baptiste Djebbari and told Sky News: ‘The absolute key is to get this resolved as soon as possible.’
It comes as millions of families face living under Tier Four restrictions for months, Matt Hancock warned.
Warning that the draconian lockdown could be extended nationwide, the Health Secretary said coronavirus was now ‘out of control’ following the emergence of a fast-spreading new variant.
Mr Hancock acknowledged yesterday that many were angry with the Government for forcing families to cancel their Christmas plans.
But he said the new variant posed ‘an enormous challenge, until we can get the vaccine rolled out to protect people. This is what we face over the next couple of months’.
It comes as experts on Nervtag (New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group) warn the new strain of Covid-19 ‘does look significantly better at spreading’.
Warning Tier 4 measures could be extended, Peter Openshaw of Imperial College London, a member of Nervtag, told The Times: ‘It’s very unlikely anything less than really effective measures are going to control it.
‘My concern is people are not going to comply. It’s really important people appreciate the danger.’
The Health Secretary suggested other parts of the country would also be plunged into Tier Four if a significant number of cases of the mutant virus emerged.
One senior Conservative MP called for Mr Hancock to resign over the shambolic handling of the Christmas rules.
And furious Tories demanded a recall of Parliament to debate and vote on the changes to pandemic laws, which were made unilaterally by Mr Hancock in the early hours of yesterday.
Covid cases hit a daily record of 35,928 yesterday – almost double the previous week. There were also 326 deaths, up from 144 a week earlier.
£7bn blow to Christmas shops: Tier 4 lockdown will wipe out huge takings during the festive peak for stores that are already ‘hanging on by a thread’, experts warn
Closed pubs and shuttered shops in the City financial district of London this morning
By Sean Poulter and Matt Oliver for the Daily Mail
High streets in Tier Four face a £7billion nightmare after having to suddenly pull down the shutters at the busiest time of the year.
The huge sum could be lost in takings for the Christmas week through to the Boxing Day and January sales after new Covid restrictions were imposed.
It is feared thousands of stores ordered to close will never re-open, putting many thousands out of work.
The closure of non-essential shops, gyms, hairdressers, nail bars and department stores in London and the South East at midnight on Saturday after just a few hours’ notice has been a hammer blow.
Meanwhile Wales moved into a Tier Four equivalent yesterday and Scotland announced its own restrictions on Saturday.
Retail analyst Steve Dresser criticised the ‘zero notice’ and warned: ‘It’s sounding the death knell for our industry. End of times.’
Debenhams and Topshop, part of the Arcadia group, already have closing down sales and many others will follow suit.
Bricks and mortar retailers, including John Lewis and Next, are having to switch the focus of Boxing Day sales online and even bring them forward.
The scale of the lost or delayed sales for physical stores could ‘sadly’ be up to £7billion, suggested Douglas McWilliams, deputy chairman of the Centre for Economics and Business Research.
‘This fortnight is big for Christmas and sale spending with £15billion of Christmas spending next week and £8billion of sale spending the week after,’ he said.
‘Some goes to supermarkets, some will go online. And some parts of the country are unaffected. But about £5-7billion will be at least delayed.’
The British Retail Consortium has estimated the loss of sales during a typical lockdown week are up to £2billion. The total for the weeks before and after Christmas would be likely to top £5billion.
Richard Lim, chief executive at analysts Retail Economics, also warned of the effects of Tier Four.
‘Thousands of retailers are hanging on by a thread, hoping to trade through these vital days before Christmas after months of disruption,’ he said.
‘It is essential that adequate government support is provided for an industry already on its knees.
For many shoppers, a last-minute rush to order presents online will come too late as retailers struggle to cope with the volume of orders.
‘Online capacity has already been exceeded for many retailers and a last-gasp attempt for some is likely to push operations beyond their limits.’
The British Independent Retailers Association criticised the closure of non-essential shops as ‘disastrous’.
It called for support for small shopowners who will lose out as consumers rush to supermarkets and the few other stores, such as DIY warehouses, which can remain open.
Chief executive Andrew Goodacre added that ‘closing Covid-secure non-essential shops at this time of year does not deter people from coming out’.
He warned: ‘It only leads to larger crowds in those stores left to trade, giving every opportunity for this virus to spread.’
The British Retail Consortium has been accused by industry insiders of failing to use the rhetoric needed to spell out the true scale of the crisis.
After the latest closures, chief executive Helen Dickinson said: ‘This is hugely regrettable news.
‘Retailers have invested hundreds of millions of pounds making stores Covid-secure.
‘The consequences of this decision will be severe. The Government’s stop-start approach is deeply unhelpful.
‘This decision comes only two weeks after the end of the last national lockdown and in the middle of peak trading.
‘Faced with this news and the prospect of losing £2billion per week in sales for the third time this year, many businesses will be in serious difficulty and many thousands of jobs could be at risk.’
The UK reported a further 35,928 cases yesterday as the mutant strain caused a 94.8% rise in infections
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