UK PM Johnson to chair emergency response meeting on COVID travel, freight

Train personnel wave to each other as one of them boards the last scheduled Eurostar train from London to Paris ahead of travel restrictions imposed by the French government on the UK, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in London, Britain December 20, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville

LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Boris Johnson will chair an emergency response meeting on Monday to discuss international travel, in particular the flow of freight in and out of Britain, a spokeswoman for his office said on Sunday.

Earlier on Sunday, several European countries began closing their doors to travellers from Britain after the country tightened COVID restrictions in London and southern England to try to curb the spread of a new strain of the coronavirus.

France said it would bar all people coming from the UK for 48 hours from Sunday night, including freight carriers, whether by road, air, sea or rail. Britain’s port of Dover said its ferry terminal was closed.

“The prime minister will chair a COBR (emergency response) meeting tomorrow to discuss the situation regarding international travel, in particular the steady flow of freight into and out of the UK. Further meetings are happening this evening and tomorrow morning to ensure robust plans are in place,” the spokeswoman said.

Transport minister Grant Shapps urged Britons, especially hauliers, not to travel to ports in Kent in southern England, warning on Twitter that “we expect significant disruption in the area”.

The travel restrictions come at a difficult time for many British companies, which are engaged in last-minute stockpiling before Dec. 31, when a status quo transition period with the European Union ends and new customs rules come into effect.

Doug Bannister, chief executive at the port of Dover, told Reuters earlier this month that Europe’s biggest trucking port was already seeing almost record volumes of trade.

Reporting by Elizabeth Piper and Kate Holton; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Peter Cooney