France’s decision to suspend travel from Britain for 48 hours in response to the emergence of a new coronavirus strain on Sunday will have an impact on the movement of supplies with hauliers prevented from entering the continent for the holiday season.
On Sunday evening, France joined other European countries in banning travel from Britain after UK authorities confirmed they had identified a new and more contagious strain of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19.
Britain’s Department for Transport advices travellers to avoid the ports at Kent the Eurotunnel and other points of entry to France for the 48-hour period that began Sunday evening.
Authorities in Kent activated an emergency plan known as Operation Stack to ease gridlock and filter traffic.
The Eurotunnel under the English Channel said access would be suspended for passenger and freight traffic and warned anyone entering the UK to check rules for travel and accommodation.
The Port of Calais also issued a notice that said the ban only affected people, meaning lorries loaded onto ferries could continue to move.
“For a period of 48 hours, France has suspended all travel by people from the United Kingdom,” the port tweeted. “Unaccompanied and export flow is not affected by this measure.”
Travel affected in both directions
Although only a one-way ban, the measure was expected to have an impact on haulage to the UK as well, including regular pickups of perishable food from distribution centres in France and Belgium.
Logistics UK, which represents haulers serving supermarkets and factories, said there was no need to be concerned about food shortages.
“Shoppers should not panic buy,” the group said in a statement.
“Inbound traffic still has access to the UK. We are maintaining close contact with UK government to ensure that supplies of fresh produce are available throughout Christmas and the New Year.”
The ban was expected to affect the arrival of consumer goods and other supplies in demand over the holiday season, adding uncertainty to a traffic situation already complicated by Britain’s impending departure from the European Union on 1 January.
Rod McKenzie, policy director of the Road Haulage Association, said the ban would compound difficulties already witnessed with the Christmas rush and Brexit stockpiling.
“This is an absolute hammer blow after all the queues that we’ve had at ports over the past week caused by Brexit stockpiling and of course the Christmas rush,” McKenzie told the BBC. “There’s real confusion and uncertainty in the industry.”