PM chairs emergency meeting as countries close borders to UK travellers

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will meet with the government’s emergency committee as countries close their borders with the country amid the emergence of a new, rapidly-spreading variant of Covid-19.

Countries including the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, France, Germany and Ireland have banned travellers from the UK; Turkey and Canada are also among those suspending UK flights. The bans are varying lengths of times.

The UK health authorities reported 35,928 new coronavirus cases on 20 December, with a reproduction rate of 1.1 to 1.2. The rate is an indicator of the number of people an infected person will pass the virus onto.

The European Union will also be holding a meeting with member states to discuss the coordination of the response of travel restrictions in light of the new strain.

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Faced with a renewed surge in the virus, the government introduced a fourth tier in its regional Covid-19 alert system, which has four levels with increasingly strict restrictions. London and parts of the east and south east of England entered the Tier 4, with rules similar to lockdown, on 20 December.

The combination of travel bans and increased restrictions saw train stations packed in London as people rushed to leave before the new rules came into place. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said travellers were “totally irresponsible”.

Johnson also cancelled the relaxation period planned for Christmas, during which three households would have been able to mix. In a 19 December press conference, the Prime Minister said: “It is with a very heavy heart I must tell you we cannot continue with Christmas as planned”.

Scotland has also imposed a travel ban on those coming from England and placed the whole nation under the strictest Covid-19 rules as well.

On 20 December, the Department for Transport issued a statement saying it was expecting “significant disruption” in Kent after the French government sealed its borders for 48 hours. The move, aimed at stopping the spread of the virus, comes as businesses in the UK prepare for a possible no-deal Brexit in 10 days’ time.

“As a result we are urging everybody – including all hauliers – to avoid travelling to Kent ports until further notice,” the statement said.

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To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Bérengère Sim

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