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Senin, 21 Desember 2020

New coronavirus strain breeds panic as countries close borders to the UK - ABC News

Trucks waiting to get out of Britain backed up for kilometres and people were stranded at airports, as more countries imposed stringent travel restrictions on the United Kingdom over concerns of a new coronavirus strain.

Countries across the world have halted air travel to the UK, while France has banned trucks from entering for 48 hours while the new variant found in England is assessed.

There were rising hopes on Monday, however, that France would allow traffic to flow again, with truck drivers having to take rapid coronavirus tests on arrival.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will chair a meeting of the UK Government's emergency committee amid mounting concerns the new restrictions could lead to food shortages if they are not reversed soon.

Most of the perishable goods coming into the UK from France arrive in trucks.

Goods carried by containers on ships, such as manufactured products, are not affected by the ban.

But confusion over the new regulations was adding to long backups, at a time when traffic was already being snarled by Christmas-related traffic and uncertainty over the UK's future trade relationship with the European Union.

Around 10,000 trucks pass through the Port of Dover every day, accounting for about 20 per cent of the UK's trade in goods.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who is recovering from a COVID-19 infection, told a Cabinet meeting by video on Monday: "We are looking at systematic testing upon arrival."

A spokesman for Mr Johnson said the UK was working closely with other countries to minimise transport disruption.

Canada, India, Hungary and Switzerland are among the latest countries to halt flights from the UK, following the lead of many in Europe.

Two adults carry baggage behind airport queue, only their hands and legs are visible, as a child sits on one of the suitcases.
Many European travellers were disappointed after their flights from the UK were grounded.(AP: Jonas Guettler)

United States Assistant Health Secretary Brett Giroir said that it was possible the US would ban also travel from the UK, but added nothing had been decided yet.

"I think everything is possible. We just need to put everything on the table, have an open scientific discussion and make the best recommendation," he said.

The travel restrictions were announced hours after Mr Johnson said Christmas shopping and gatherings in southern England must be cancelled because of rapidly spreading infections blamed on the new coronavirus variant.

Early indications are that the new variant of the virus is 70 per cent more transmissible, Mr Johnson said.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said that while preliminary analysis in the UK suggests the new variant is "significantly more transmissible," there is no indication that infections are more severe.

Experts, however, have stressed that even if the new strain is not more lethal, it's inevitable that more cases will lead to more hospitalisations and subsequent virus-related deaths.

The chaos at the border comes at a time of huge uncertainty for the UK, less than two weeks before the final stage of its exit from the EU.

AP/Reuters

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2020-12-21 13:46:00Z
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