Top French scientist tells Macron to slam shut UK border sparking trade crisis fears

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Government adviser Arnaud Fontanet, a member of the scientific council that is helping guide President Emmanuel Macron through the coronavirus crisis, said borders should be closed to Britain and Ireland. He also proposed a shutdown with other countries that have a strong presence of the mutant strain found in the south east of England. Mr Fontanet told BFM television: “It’s important that we consider whether we need to close the borders to a limited number of countries, notably the United Kingdom and Ireland.

“There is certainly a point for the agenda. It is not up to the scientific council to decide this, but we want to raise the issue.”

French officials have announced that the infectious variant, found in Kent, has been detected in Marseille and in the French Alps.

Mr Fontanet added: “The new Covid variant is nearly a new epidemic within the epidemic.”

France, and dozens of other countries, slammed shut their borders to Britain in the days leading up to Christmas after the Covid mutation was identified.

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The shutdown left thousands of lorries stranded in Kent as they attempted to cross back into mainland Europe.

France has maintained tough travel restrictions on the UK since partially reopening the border just before Christmas.

President Macron’s government last week extended its entry ban on travellers from the UK until “further notice”.

Only truckers and EU citizens on essential trips – who must provide a negative Covid test result from the previous 72 hours – can travel from the UK.

Mr Fontanet said the new variant, first found in Kent, was more contagious than the original Covid virus.

But he insisted there were no signs that the bug had a higher mortality rate.

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The scientific council chief claimed France would need to vaccinate 10 to 15 million people by the end of March and 25 to 30 million by the end of June in order to get the coronavirus crisis under control.

The worsening crisis in Britain is likely to give France little confidence in keeping its borders open.

England in the last 24 hours reported the most Covid-19 hospital deaths since the first lockdown in April.

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UK coronavirus cases increases by 59,937

NHS England today reported 747 deaths among patients who had rested positive for Covid, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths in hospitals to 56,816.

Boris Johnson has also toughened up border checks entering England, amid fears of another mutant strain ravaging South Africa.

Travellers entering England and Scotland will need to provide a negative Covid test within 72 hours of departure.

The World Health Organisation’s European task force has called for measures to be ramped up to counter the spread of the new variants.

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