France discovers first case of new coronavirus variant in man who arrived from London

Drivers can only cross to France if they have a negative coronavirus test, slowing the process of clearing the backlog caused when borders were shut in response to the coronavirus variant first detected in southern England.

The man is currently self-isolating, the French health ministry confirmed on Friday night adding that he was asymptomatic.

On Monday it was announced French and EU citizens were allowed to enter France from the UK once again after a 48-hour shutdown over Covid fears.

Thousands of truck drivers have been stranded in England after France and other countries closed their borders to the UK over fears of a highly infections new variant of coronavirus.  After two days of talks, transport secretary Grant Shapps on Tuesday announced an agreement had been reached with Paris, although he gave no details of arrangements for lorry movements.

More than 4,500 HGVs travelled across the Channel, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Christmas Day.

Mr Shapps thanked hauliers for the patience and “everyone on the ground working tirelessly to help after the French border was suddenly closed”.

“Over 10,000 tests have taken place & over 4,500 HGVs are back over the Channel,” he said on Twitter.

Ireland also confirmed cases of the new variant, whose presence in the United Kingdom has brought travel bans from a number of countries.

“I can confirm that we have detected the new UK variant of SARS-CoV-2 by whole genome sequencing at the National Virus Reference Laboratory” in University College Dublin, Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan said in a statement.

“Further testing in the coming days and weeks will establish the extent to which it is present here,” he added.

Five new cases of the UK-based variant have also been detected in Japan.

The highly infectious variant, known officially as B.1.1.7, has already been linked to cases in a number of countries across the world, including Denmark, Singapore, Australia, Italy and Iceland.

Earlier this week Professor Neil Ferguson, a member of Nervtag – a SAGE sub-group, said the variant was “everywhere now” but that he expected Tier 4 restrictions to have a beneficial impact.

Appearing via video-link, he told MPs at the Science and Technology Committee : “The fact that they Denmark have picked up 10 cases with sequencing of this new variant in a country as small as Denmark with a relatively low infection rate would suggest almost certainly, in my view, that this virus has been introduced to a great majority if not all of European countries at the current time.”

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