U.K. Increasingly Isolated as U.S. Restricts Travel

LONDON — It was yet one more reminder, delivered earlier than daybreak on Christmas morning, that Britain just isn’t solely an island nation, however one which finds itself more and more alone.

A call by america to require all airline passengers arriving from Britain to check unfavourable for the coronavirus inside 72 hours of their departure, beginning on Monday, was not a lot a shock because it was one other bitter capsule in a somber vacation season.

There’s the quick unfold of a coronavirus variant feared to be extra contagious. Dozens of nations have barred vacationers from Britain from getting into. Expanded lockdowns in the country will include 48 million people by Saturday. And thousands of trucks remain stranded alongside England’s coast even after France lifted a short border blockade imposed over virus issues.

Including to the volatility was a last-minute Brexit deal with the European Union, which saved Britain from crashing out of the bloc with out an settlement in place however was all the identical a painful reminder of a choice that has divided the nation.

Then there was Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s vacation message, which warned towards “snogging underneath the mistletoe.”

Though a chorus of Brexit supporters was that they have been pushed by a need for Britain to “take again management,” the nation’s quick future is being formed by forces past any particular person’s management — and maybe none extra so than the coronavirus.

The fast unfold of the virus variant — which authorities statistics point out accounts for half of all circumstances at present in England — led to the lockdown of London and southern England this week. Beginning on Saturday, it would embrace a fair wider swath of the nation, and a nationwide lockdown has not been dominated out.

“I do know that it’s been very, very robust over the previous few weeks, and, I need to inform individuals, it would proceed to be troublesome,” Mr. Johnson mentioned on Thursday.

Many international locations already require a unfavourable coronavirus check for entry, and the brand new U.S. restrictions are much less extreme than the close to whole bans that about 50 nations have positioned on vacationers from Britain. However with the nation usually serving as a connection hub for passengers touring between Europe and america, it was one other blow to its battered airways, which have slashed flight after flight as governments suspended journey.

The same old flood of visitors between america and Britain had already suffered a precipitous decline. Greater than 4.eight million British residents visited america in 2019, based on the Workplace of Nationwide Statistics.

And whereas in February Heathrow attributed over a million passengers to the North American market, since then the determine has plummeted, falling to 81,713 final month, based on information compiled by the airport.

Britain’s Overseas and Commonwealth places of work up to date their journey recommendation on Friday to incorporate the brand new testing requirement. These seeking to journey must present the results of both a PCR check — which should be despatched to a lab and might take a number of days to course of — or the fast antigen check, a comparatively new software that provides a end in about 30 minutes.

With many personal clinics and labs closed for Christmas on Friday, testing throughout the 72-hour window could show troublesome for these seeking to journey instantly after the vacation. Value may additionally be an element: Heathrow Airport fees about $130 for PCR outcomes with 48 hours and about $60 {dollars} for antigen exams with outcomes inside 45 minutes, and personal clinics cost much more for each exams.

Each exams are provided at many main British airports, together with Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester Airport and London Luton. However as a result of passengers must register upfront for exams, it was unclear what number of would be capable of get one — after which get a consequence — in time.

Nonessential journey will even be banned inside a lot of Britain beginning on Saturday.

Regardless of the restrictions, there may be concern that the variant, which mounting scientific proof signifies is extra contagious, might be spreading way more broadly than beforehand identified. And since few international locations make use of the extent of genomic surveillance that Britain does, it might have already been spreading undetected for weeks.

A girl who flew into Germany on Sunday — hours earlier than the nation put in place a journey ban — examined constructive for the variant, German well being officers mentioned on Thursday. It was the primary case recognized within the nation, however as a result of the variant has been spreading since at the least September, specialists mentioned it was most likely not the primary case there.

Singapore additionally introduced that it had detected a case on Thursday.

And Denmark, which has wider genomic surveillance than many different international locations, detected 33 circumstances of the variant between Nov. 14 and Dec. 14, based on the Danish well being authorities.

The priority concerning the variant that led to bans on journey additionally prompted France to blockade the English Channel for 48 hours. Though that order was lifted on Wednesday, a subsequent push to testing 1000’s of drivers for the virus as a situation to enter France has proved a logistical nightmare.

By Thursday, the transportation secretary, Grant Shapps, mentioned that of the two,367 drivers examined, three have been constructive. 1000’s extra stay to be examined, and Britain’s navy has despatched a further 800 troopers to help the 300 already there to assist well being employees conducting the screenings.

As concern deepened within the drivers’ house nations, together with Poland, that nation’s protection minister said in a tweet {that a} staff of troopers can be despatched to England to assist get residents house.

For an exhausted and exasperated British public, the same old amusements of the vacation season have been laborious to return by.

Even the queen’s annual Christmas speech turned the topic of controversy when one nationwide broadcaster, Channel 4, used the vacation to supply a “warning” concerning the risks of “deep faux” movies by presenting a five-minute faux model of the tackle.

In it, the faux queen bemoans the departure of Prince Harry and his spouse, Meghan, for america and alludes to the Duke of York’s resolution to step down from royal duties this yr after giving an interview to the BBC about his connection to the intercourse offender Jeffrey Epstein.

The BBC’s royal correspondent, Nicholas Witchell, was not impressed.

“There have been numerous imitations of the queen,” he mentioned. “This isn’t a very good one.”

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