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World closes borders to UK as new coronavirus strain breeds fear

Supermarket warns of food shortages while many forced to scrap travel plans

DOVER: More countries closed their borders to Britain yesterday over fears of a highly infectious new coronavirus strain, heightening global panic, causing travel chaos and raising the prospect of food shortages.

India, Poland, Switzerland, Russia and Hong Kong suspended travel for Britons after Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that a mutated variant of the virus up to 70 per cent more infectious had been identified in the country.

A slew of countries have already suspended travel, including France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Ireland, Belgium, Israel and Canada.

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

France shut its border to arrivals of people and trucks from Britain, closing off one of the most important trade arteries with mainland Europe.

GAPS ON SHELVES

As families and truck drivers tried to navigate the travel bans to get back home in time for Christmas, Britain's second-largest supermarket chain, Sainsbury's, said gaps would appear on shelves within days if transport ties were not quickly restored with mainland Europe.

"If nothing changes, we will start to see gaps over the coming days on lettuce, some salad leaves, cauliflowers, broccoli and citrus fruit - all of which are imported from the continent at this time of year," Sainsbury's said.

Many Britons are stuck in other countries and have no idea when they can return.

Ms Alison, who wanted to use only her first name, is normally an optimistic person, but she cried when her Christmas Eve flight home was cancelled with just a few days notice.

"I had built this up in my head to be a much-needed break and I have been feeling a bit homesick," said the 30-something Briton, who works as a live-in nanny in Rome.

Ms Ewelina Macpherson, who has British and Polish nationality, is due to fly home to Edinburgh from Poland tomorrow and still holds out hope she will make it.

"My mother is terminally ill. Her time is very limited," she told AFP. But "everything is up in the air". - REUTERS, AFP

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