Cobra meeting: when is today’s emergency meeting chaired by Boris Johnson - and what does Cobra stand for?

The government committee is expected to meet this afternoon to discuss the halting of travel between the UK and France

Boris Johnson is to host a Cobra meeting on Monday after France banned lorries carrying freight from the UK and countries around the world ended flights amid fears over the new mutant coronavirus strain.

The Prime Minister will chair a meeting of the Government’s Cobra civil contingencies committee on Monday amid warnings of “significant disruption” around the Channel ports in Kent.

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Hauliers were urged to stay away from the area amid warnings of potential problems as the end of the Brexit transition period looms on December 31.

Boris Johnson is set to host a Cobra meeting this morning (Getty Images)

With France suspending all traffic from the UK for 48 hours, it raised fears that trade flows could be severely disrupted while passengers across Europe could be left stranded in the final run-up to Christmas.

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What time is the Cobra meeting?

The Prime Minister will join the emergency Cobra meeting on Monday afternoon, alongside a host of governments ministers and experts.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon indicated that this would take place at 1.30pm.

On Sunday, a Number 10 spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister will chair a Cobra meeting tomorrow to discuss the situation regarding international travel, in particular the steady flow of freight into and out of the UK.

“Further meetings are happening this evening and tomorrow morning to ensure robust plans are in place.”

Why are countries banning travel from the UK?

A mutant strain of coronavirus sweeping across London and the south east of England has prompted the EU nations to start restricting inbound flights from the UK.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said Belgium’s flight ban was “out of precaution”, adding: “There are a great many questions about this new mutation and if it is not already on the mainland.”

The German embassy in London tweeted that flight restrictions were the result of “the coronavirus mutation”.

On Saturday, Mr Johnson said there was “no evidence” the new variant “causes more severe illness or higher mortality” but “it does appear to be passed on significantly more easily”.

He said the new strain could be up to 70% more transmissible than the old virus variant.

What is COBRA and when are meetings called?

The name stands for ‘Cabinet Office Briefing Room A’ and refers to the emergency council which is formed when a crisis arises which will call for various different departments to work in tandem.

They meet in the Cabinet Office's briefing rooms (usually room A), hence the name.

The idea is to convene all the relevant parties at once to make rapid, effective action possible. In America, the Situation Room provides roughly the same function.

Having originally been formed in response to the miner's strike in 1972, past COBRA meetings have also been called to deal with issues like the fire-fighters' strike, terrorist attacks across Europe and the US, and the Novichok poisoning case.