By Rupert Steiner
Shoppers could face shortages of some foods, after a mutant strain of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 spreading quickly across the U.K. caused France to ban travel to and from Britain.
Trade has been halted between key ports and the Eurotunnel for 48 hours. As many as 10,000 trucks pass through some ports each day, carrying essential food and goods between the U.K. and Europe.
Lines of shoppers stood outside stores on Monday, as the development sparked panic buying.
Britain’s third-largest grocery store Sainsbury’s /zigman2/quotes/206038250/delayed UK:SBRY -0.08% warned there could be some gaps on shelves if the blockade continues.
A spokesman said: “If nothing changes, we will start to see gaps over the coming days on lettuce, some salad leaves, cauliflowers, broccoli and citrus fruit — all of which are imported from the Continent at this time of year.”
If France keeps the border closed for more than the 48 hours, it could cause a “significant impact” for Tesco /zigman2/quotes/203761082/delayed UK:TSCO +1.56% , the country’s biggest grocer.
Chairman John Allan told the Times : “At the moment it is anyone’s guess frankly. If it’s longer then there could be a significant impact. And, of course, Brexit is on the horizon, which brings its unknowns.”
On Sunday, the border between the U.K. and France was closed after France and other countries, including Canada and Sweden, effectively placed the U.K. in quarantine. The U.K.’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, had flagged a new variant of coronavirus that was spreading up to 70% faster than before, saying on Monday it is “out of control.”
David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets U.K., said: “A number of Britain’s neighbors, including Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands have banned flights from the U.K. for fear of spreading the new strain of COVID-19.
“France has halted flights and human handled-freight for 48 hours, and there are huge concerns for the disruption caused at ports.
“The U.K. has become isolated since the announcement of the latest new restrictions and is likely to remain in the cold for a few more days. Also in the mix is the continued lack of progress on U.K.-EU trade talks.”