Cut off: Britain hit with travel bans over new virus strain

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Lorries are parked near the port, Monday, Dec. 21, 2020, after the Port of Dover, England, was closed and access to the Eurotunnel terminal suspended following the French government's announcement. France banned all travel from the UK for 48 hours from midnight Sunday, including trucks carrying freight through the tunnel under the English Channel or from the port of Dover on England's south coast. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

LONDON – Trucks waiting to get out of Britain backed up for miles and people were left stranded at airports Monday as dozens of countries around the world slapped tough travel restrictions on the U.K. because of a new and seemingly more contagious strain of the coronavirus in England.

From Canada to India, one nation after another banned flights from Britain, while France barred the entry of trucks from Britain for 48 hours while the strain is assessed.

The precautions raised fears of food shortages in Britain if the restrictions drag on.

After a conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he understood the reason for the new measures and expressed hope for a swift resumption in the free flow of traffic between the U.K. and France, perhaps within a few hours.

He said officials from both countries were working “to unblock the flow of trade as fast as possible." Macron said earlier that France was looking at establishing systematic testing of people for the virus on arrival.

Over the weekend, Johnson imposed strict lockdown measures in London and neighboring areas where Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the new strain is “out of control.” Experts said the early evidence indicates the strain is not more lethal, and they expressed confidence that the vaccines now being rolled out would still be effective against it.

After France announced Sunday night that it was closing its borders to trucks from Britain, hundreds of vehicles, mainly operated by drivers from continental Europe, became stranded outside the English Channel port of Dover. The lines shrank over the course of the day from 500 trucks to about 175 before rising again in the evening to 945, authorities said. Vehicles are being redirected to the disused Manston Airport nearby, which is being prepared to accommodate up to 4,000 trucks.

Around 10,000 trucks pass through the port of Dover every day, accounting for about 20% of the country’s trade in goods.