In recent days, the world has watched with curiosity and growing alarm as scientists in the United Kingdom have described a newly identified variant of the coronavirus that appears to be more contagious than, and genetically distinct from, more established variants. Initial studies of the new variant prompted Prime Minister Boris Johnson to tighten restrictions over Christmas, and spurred officials in the Netherlands, Germany, and other European countries to ban travel from the U.K.
Last week, the UK warned of a new coronavirus variant that is thought to be up to 70 percent more transmissible than the original strain of the virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) informed that the new variant has so far been identified in Denmark, the Netherlands and Australia.
Lokesh Patel knows how it is to be stuck away from home during a lockdown. Like he was stuck in Mumbai when the national lockdown was announced in March, away from hometown Varanasi. Now, sitting in his room in London, Patel fears getting stranded a second time, after the Indian government suspended all flights from the UK, till December 31.
Patel, who is part of production and accounts department of Zabawa Entertainment and Yashi Films, has been in London for over two months. He is with a crew of 60 people, shooting Marathi and Bhojpuri films in London.
On the other hand, In a surprise move, France has gone further than other European countries and has unilaterally banned people and freight coming from the UK, whether by road, air, sea, or rail, for 48 hours from Sunday night.
The port of Dover was also closed to all vehicle traffic leaving the UK, leading to miles of lorry back-ups. There is growing concern that this will lead to food and supply shortages. The food chain Sainsbury’s has already warned that some fruits and vegetables could be missing from its shelves if the freight crisis is not resolved urgently.
Within the country, with people in Tier 4 not allowed to travel or meet family for Christmas, small and medium businesses are being badly hit. Retail and hospitality are now facing a very dangerous future as they had to shut down within hours of the PM’s latest announcement over the weekend. And this current lockdown is further ominous as scientific experts and Health Secretary Matt Hancock have warned that this level of lockdown may last for months to come, until the rollout of the vaccine, which could be until Easter, despite UK being the first country to roll out the Pfizer vaccine.
The new variant of the virus was first detected in September in Kent, and by November 2020, around a quarter of cases in London were the new variant. This reached nearly two-thirds of cases in mid-December.