UK, France working to unblock cross-channel trade “as fast as possible”: UK PM

Trucks arrive at the Port of Dover to cross the Dover Strait on the first day after Brexit in Dover, Britain, Feb. 1, 2020. (Photo by Ray Tang/Xinhua)

  Trucks arrive at the Port of Dover to cross the Dover Strait on the first day after Brexit in Dover, Britain, Feb. 1, 2020. (Photo by Ray Tang/Xinhua)

LONDON, Dec. 21 (Xinhua) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday that Britain and France are working to unblock the cross-channel trade “as fast as possible”.

Johnson made the statement when he was speaking at a virtual press conference at Downing Street after the French government banned the entry of trucks from Britain amid concerns over the highly transmissible new coronavirus strain.

The prime minister said he had just had “a very good call” with French President Emmanuel Macron to solve the issue.

“I have just spoken to President Macron, we had a very good call. And we both understand each other’s positions and want to resolve these problems as fast as possible,” Johnson said.

“We are working with our friends across the Channel to unblock the flow of trade as fast as possible,” he said.

France has closed its border with Britain for 48 hours, with no lorries or ferry passengers able to sail from the port of Dover.

About 10,000 lorries a day travel between Dover and Calais during peak periods such as Christmas.

Johnson said the disruption at Dover will not affect the vast majority of food and medical supplies, adding that his government has been preparing for such a situation for a while.

“These delays are only occurring at Dover, only affect human-handled freight and that is only 20 percent of the total arriving from or departing to the European continent,” he said.

The prime minister said that he fully understands the anxieties of the other countries over the new virus strain, pledging to work with other countries to develop treatment.

More than 40 countries including Germany, India, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Denmark, Ireland, and Bulgaria have imposed restrictions on travellers from Britain following the disclosure that the highly infectious new strain is widespread in parts of Britain.

Joining Johnson for the press briefing, the British government’s Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance said the current coronavirus restrictions are likely to be enhanced as cases continue to increase in the country.

“I think it is likely this will grow in numbers of the variant across the country. And I think it’s likely, therefore, measures will need to be increased in some places in due course and not reduced,” he said.

Vallance said measures to reduce contact between people are “even more important” now as there is a new variant that spreads more rapidly.

Johnson on Saturday announced the new Tier Four restrictions for London and other parts of England to combat an alarming surge in infections linked to the new virulent strain, which is about 70 percent more transmissible. British Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned Sunday that the new virus strain is “out of control” in Britain.

In Tier Four areas, people should not mix with anyone outside their own household, apart from support bubbles. For those in Tiers One, Two and Three, rules allowing up to three households to meet will now be limited to Christmas Day only.

Another 33,364 people in Britain have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 2,073,511, according to official figures released Monday.

The coronavirus-related deaths in Britain rose by 215 to 67,616, the data showed.

To bring life back to normal, countries such as Britain, China, Germany, Russia and the United States are racing against time to develop coronavirus vaccines. Enditem

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