Chaos descended onto London's Heathrow Airport Sunday night as hundreds of passengers dashed to catch the last flight to Dublin minutes before a Covid-19 travel ban set in at midnight to nations across Europe, including Ireland.
Boris Johnson will be presiding a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee Monday amid a travel ban by more than a dozen countries from Britain following the discovery that '70 percent more infectious' mutant coronavirus strain has plunged London and the south-east into Tier Four, reports Daily Mail UK.
Among the European nations, France, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Finland, and Denmark banned all flights carrying passengers from the UK for at least 48 hours, with some suspending flights New Year, while assessing the new strain.
Israel, Turkey, Morocco, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and El Salvador later followed suit, while pressure was last night mounting on the United States to take action after Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said Canada was putting a 72-hour stop on travel from the UK.
Crowds of people had packed into Heathrow Terminal 5 to await updates of a reportedly overbooked British Airways flight, operated by Aer Lingus, which was scheduled to take off at 8.55pm to Dublin.
Passenger Rachael Scully, 23, tweeted that the Irish Government eventually gave the 'green light' for the flight which was set to leave at 10:30pm and due to land with 15 minutes to spare before the travel ban at midnight.
She wrote, 'Irish gov have given the green light and we've been processed for a BA flight. Due to land at 23:45. Woops of joy once the news got out. A Christmas miracle! [sic]'
Ireland announced its temporary 48-hour travel ban on non-essential flights from Britain which came into force at midnight and includes passengers on flights and ferries.
A British Airways spokesman told MailOnline, "Our teams looked after customers while we urgently looked into alternative arrangements to get them on their way to Dublin as quickly as possible".
However some Irish people tweeted the stranded Heathrow passengers to urge them to stay put following the discovery of the "70 per cent more infectious" mutant coronavirus strain which plunged London and the south east into Tier Four.
It comes amid growing fears Britain's supermarket shelves may be emptied after France included British lorries in its ban on travel.
The Port of Dover closed to all freight vehicles leaving the UK last night for the next 48 hours. Hauliers coming to Britain from France will still be allowed in but there are fears that lorry drivers will not travel to avoid being "marooned" in the UK.
The Food and Drink Federation CEO Ian Wright said, "Tonight's suspension of accompanied freight traffic from the UK to France has the potential to cause serious disruption to UK Christmas fresh food supplies and exports of UK food and drink. Continental truckers will not want to travel here if they have a real fear of getting marooned.The Government must very urgently persuade the French government to exempt accompanied freight from its ban".
One road haulage boss told the BBC that while lorries are still allowed from France to the UK, he feared that many European drivers would be unwilling to make the trip fearing they could not get home for Christmas – meaning British supermarket shelves could empty.
He told the broadcaster, "Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse – disaster upon disaster. I fear for supermarket supply chains. Many will be reluctant to make the crossing to UK if they can't get back given there is already congestion".
The Eurotunnel Le Shuttle has said that the UK-France border will close at 11pm tonight and the last shuttle between the UK and France is at 9.24pm with access to the UK prohibited from 10pm.
It comes as the Eurostar has also cancelled its trains between London, Brussels in Belgium and Amsterdam in the Netherlands, starting from Monday.
US authorities are looking "very carefully" into the virus variant spreading in the United Kingdom, top health officials said Sunday, while indicating that a ban on UK travel was not currently in the cards.
According to the World Health Organisation, the strain has already been identified in Denmark and the Netherlands, while one case was found in Australia.