Travellers walk through St Pancras International, as EU countries impose a travel ban from the UK following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in London. Reuters
Britain has turned into an international outcast of sorts, thanks to COVID-19 which is assuming more and more menacing proportions as the days go by. Around 50 countries have banned arrivals of passengers from the nation. However, good old friend America does not intend to impose any virus curbs on travellers from Britain.
A White House coronavirus task force discussed requiring negative pre-flight tests after a meeting on Monday, but the government has reportedly decided not to take any action for the time being.
Even the French have become a little merciful. French and EU citizens will again be allowed to enter France from Britain from midnight on Tuesday provided they have a negative COVID-19 test that is less than 72 hours old, the French prime minister’s office said.
France and several other countries had closed their borders to Britain on Monday over fears of a highly infectious new variant of the novel coronavirus, causing travel chaos and stranding many French citizens in Britain.
But a lot of other countries are not that lenient. China announced on Tuesday it was closing its London Visa application centre in the wake of the worldwide bans.
Canada is introducing enhanced measures to screen travellers from Britain, including those arriving via other nations. Iraq is banning air travel to or from eight countries, including the UK, to guard against the spread of a new variant of the coronavirus, according to a cabinet statement. The two-week travel prohibition comes into effect on 24 December and covers Britain, South Africa, Australia, Denmark, Iran, Japan, Belgium and the Netherlands. It could be extended depending on the spread of the virus variant in those nations.
The World Health Organisation gave its cautious backing to the flight bans, saying they were “prudent” but argued for essential freight and passenger services to be maintained.
That seems to be a sensitive issue under the circumstances. Lorry drivers are in a sorry predicament. More than 630 lorries snaked along a major highway in southeast England near the English Channel ports, while almost 2,200 others crowded into an unused airport on Day 2 of an ordeal that began when dozens of nations banned flights from the UK and France barred entry to its trucks.
For the drivers, it has been a harrowing time, with some complaining about the lack of toilet facilities and food.
British retailers have become increasingly concerned about the blockage at the ports, given that 10,000 trucks pass through Dover every day, accounting for about 20% of the country’s trade in goods.
The ban on all travel connections to the island nation could aggravate food shortages during the most anticipated festival of the year, Christmas. Something that no one wants.
One resident remarked “we may have eaten our last lettuce for three months, too, probably.”
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, warned of potential shortages of fresh vegetables and fruit after Christmas if the borders are not “running pretty much freely” by Wednesday.
The problem, he explained, is that the empty trucks sitting in England can’t reach the continent to pick up deliveries for Britain.
All because of one dreaded disease. The virus is blamed for 1.7 million deaths worldwide, including more than 68,000 in Britain, the second-highest death toll in Europe, behind Italy’s 69,000.
Britain has to intensify efforts to curb the alarming rise in infections, with a record 36,800 reported on Tuesday.
The uncertainty over its final exit from the European Union in less than two weeks is only going to make things worse.