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U.K.-France Border Reopens Amid Spread Of New Coronavirus Strain

The U.K. and France reached a deal to reopen their mutual borders for rail, air, and sea delivery services amid the rapid spread of a new coronavirus strain.
The U.K. and France reached a deal to reopen their mutual borders for rail, air, and sea delivery services amid the rapid spread of a new coronavirus strain.

France has reopened its borders to travelers and truck drivers from the United Kingdom who show proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within the previous 72 hours.

The two countries reached the deal Tuesday after France closed the route on Sunday following news of an outbreak in southeast England of a new strain of the coronavirus. The shutdown caused chaos for the crucial freight route between France and the U.K., with thousands of truck drivers stranded in the port of Dover and drivers unable to return to the continent.

"We continue to urge hauliers not to travel to Kent until further notice as we work to alleviate congestion at port," U.K. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in a statement.

The agreement allows for rail, sea, and freight services to return to operation. It is set to be reviewed on Dec. 31, but could run through Jan. 6, according to the U.K.'s Department for Transport.

All truck drivers will require a "lateral flow" coronavirus test, which can detect the new strain of COVID-19 and provide results in as little as 30 minutes. The French government will also carry out sample tests on incoming freight to the U.K, according to the transport department.

Much of Europe has banned travel to and from the U.K. in an attempt to preemptively halt the spread of the new coronavirus strain. U.K. officials warn the new variant could be as much as 70% more contagious than the various strains previously in circulation. However, there's no evidence so far suggesting the new variant is more deadly.

NPR's Paris correspondent Eleanor Beardsley contributed to this report.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.