France lifts border restrictions on U.K. after coronavirus variant prompts shutdown

Click to play video: 'Access denied: More countries ban UK travellers due to new COVID-19 strain'
Access denied: More countries ban UK travellers due to new COVID-19 strain
Access denied: More countries ban UK travellers due to new COVID-19 strain – Dec 21, 2020

Britain and France have reached an agreement that will lift restrictions after the French government closed its doors in an effort to quell the spread of a new variant of the coronavirus that was quickly spreading in the U.K.

“Accompanied freight services and some passenger services” will resume Tuesday evening, while land, air and sea services are expected to resume on Wednesday, the British government said in an online statement.

Anyone travelling from the U.K. into France will be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within the last 72 hours, while all lorry drivers will have to undergo a lateral flow test, the statement read.

British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he was “pleased” about what he called “important progress with our French counterparts,” but advised hauliers “not to travel to Kent until further notice as we alleviate congestion at ports.”

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government had been working throughout the day with France in an attempt to find a way to lift border closures that have snarled one of Europe’s most important trade routes just days before the Brexit cliff edge.

Much of the world closed borders to the United Kingdom over recent days after London identified a highly infectious new coronavirus strain, leaving hundreds of truck drivers stranded in southern England.

France shut its border to arrivals of people and trucks from Britain. The BBC cited French Europe Minister Clément Beaune as saying that Britain and France would announce a deal to restart freight by Wednesday.

“We speak to our colleagues in France constantly on a range of issues and that work has been underway over the last 24 hours and we’ll continue today,” Home Secretary Priti Patel told Sky.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: UK facing travel bans to limit spread of ​variant'
COVID-19: UK facing travel bans to limit spread of ​variant

Asked if there would be a resolution today, Patel said: “We’re working to get a resolution. It’s in both our interests to ensure that we have flow.”

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“We’ll see what materializes today,” Patel said.

The discovery of the new strain, just months before vaccines are expected to be widely available, sowed new panic in a pandemic that has killed about 1.7 million people worldwide and more than 67,000 in Britain.

With the United Kingdom in effective COVID quarantine just 9 days before it is due to exit informal EU membership, one of the biggest changes in post-World War Two British history, some shoppers stripped shelves in supermarkets.

As financial markets tumbled, stranded truck drivers near the port of Dover said they just wanted to get back home in time for Christmas.

— with files from Global News’ Emerald Bensadoun

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