People walk past the closed entrance to the Eurostar terminal at Brussels South Railway Station after the UK’s European neighbors closed their doors to travelers from the UK in Brussels, Belgium, on December 21, 2020.
Yves Herman | Reuters
LONDON – Afraid, angry and alone. So many people in the UK feel just two days before Christmas when a new variant of Covid that appears to be transmitting faster is spreading across the country.
The UK government said Saturday it had no choice but to ban around 18 million people from visiting other households on Christmas Day in order to realize festive plans for people across the country.
Since then, dozens of countries around the world have closed their doors to the British to prevent the new variant from spreading among their own populations.
Jon, from the London suburb of Surbiton, who refused to share his full name, told CNBC it felt like March when the coronavirus first hit Europe, just with no sunshine and long days. “I think there was more hope then,” he said.
Jon said he was “very concerned” about the new variant of the coronavirus. “If it keeps changing, will these vaccinations work?” he said. “Will it keep changing?”
Experts believe Covid vaccines are likely to protect against the new strain, but the WHO and others are conducting studies to confirm whether this has any effect on the vaccine’s effectiveness.
Jon said he had “enough” personally, but it is the younger generation that he really feels sorry for, including his 24-year-old daughter.
“Maybe they should give the vaccine to those who can get the economy back on its feet before they give it to older people who are isolated in private households,” he said.
One bright spot for the country is that vaccines are already being introduced. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this week that over 500,000 people have already received the first two-dose dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
Even so, Jon isn’t particularly optimistic about 2021 – especially the first half of the year. “We can only go on,” he said. “On the positive side, the street and the neighbors are moving closer together.”
International routes cut off
More than 40 countries around the world have restricted travel from the UK since Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s press conference on Saturday.
In Europe this includes Ireland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium and outside the continent Canada, Argentina and Israel.
France also closed its borders with Great Britain and blocked freight traffic accompanied by drivers. The move secured over 1,000 trucks across Kent, although the borders are due to reopen to passengers from England on Wednesday.
A drive sits in the cab of his truck while parked on the M20 in Kent after the port of Dover closed after the French government announced it would not accept passengers from the UK.
Steve Parsons | PA pictures | Getty Images
“Aside from the items that might be missing from our Christmas dinners due to the closed border between France and Great Britain, the truck queues in Dover show how much we need good relationships with our European partners,” said Kate Baldwin. a communications professional in London.
“As much as we all want an end to the terrible year we have seen, I can’t help but believe that Britain will simply move from one crisis to another with Brexit in 2021.”
Travel plans ruined
George Blackwell, a 28-year-old British expat who lives in Dubai, told CNBC he flew to London on December 18 to be with his family on Christmas Day. He was supposed to stay until December 28, but flew back to the United Arab Emirates on December 21, just three days after landing.
“The departure board at the airport on the way back was a long list of cancellations, and Dubai appeared to be the only open destination,” said Blackwell, manager at a home appliance manufacturer. “The decision to return was a difficult family decision, but I felt like I had to return to my country of residence for fear of another global lockdown.”
During his brief stay in the UK, Blackwell said there was a total lack of understanding of the importance of the new strain of the virus.
“It was like being in a Hunger Games movie,” said Blackwell. “The total lack of understanding by the public about how serious the virus really is for an annoying atmosphere that has made me nervous all along.”
The moment it was announced that London would join Tier 4 – the strictest lockdown beast in England – thousands of people were trying to escape the city.
The trains from St. Pancras train station in central London were full of people trying to flee a city with one of the highest rates of coronavirus and potentially spreading the virus to other parts of the country.
Lynne Harvey, 71, told CNBC she was “not too concerned about the mutated virus,” adding that she understood that “its transmission is faster but not more virulent”.
“We just have to keep masking, keep our distance and wash hands. I always wore disposable gloves when shopping because I am classified as extremely vulnerable,” she added.
Harvey said she would also like to see law enforcement step up with those who break the rules. “I think a lot of people are way too complacent and not socially distant compared to March … I think this country is way too gentle on people flaunting the recommendations and bringing in the army.”
– Natasha Turak contributed to this report