Coronavirus in the UK: Prime Minister has said tougher restrictions on cross-channel travel may be needed 'very soon'

Boris Johnson is considering tougher restrictions on travel from France to prevent the importation of coronavirus variants despite the risks to cross-channel trade.

The Prime Minister said a balance had to be struck between the need to protect public health and the major disruption that would be caused to the flow of goods including food and medicine.

His comments to MPs came amid concerns about the spread of the South African and Brazilian variants of coronavirus.

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Home Affairs Committee chairwoman Yvette Cooper said France had 2-3,000 cases of the variants and questioned why it was not on the "red list" of countries from which travel is effectively banned.

She acknowledged that the need for trade would mean quarantine was not appropriate for hauliers but questioned why they were not being tested for coronavirus.

Mr Johnson said putting France on the "red list" was "something that we will have to look at" due to concerns about the effectiveness of the vaccines against new variants.

Appearing before the Liaison Committee of senior MPs he said "we have to look at the situation at the channel" and "we can't rule out tougher measures and we will put them in if necessary".

When France required the testing of hauliers crossing the channel in December it led to thousands of lorries being stranded in Kent while the arrangements were put in place.

Mr Johnson said: "There is a balance to be struck and what we don't know is the exact state of the efficacy of the vaccines against the new variants and we have to balance that against the very serious disruption that is entailed by curtailing cross-channel trade.

"This country depends very largely for the food in our shops, for the medicines that we need on that trade flowing smoothly.

"We will take a decision, no matter how tough, to interrupt that trade, to interrupt those flows, if we think that it is necessary to protect public health and to stop new variants coming in.

"It may be that we have to do that very soon."

His comments followed reports that Mr Johnson is under pressure from England's chief medical officer Chris Whitty and his deputy Jonathan Van-Tam to implement tougher border controls.

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