“The vast majority of food, medicines and other supplies are coming and going as normal,” he said.
“These delays only apply to a very small percentage of food entering the UK … so everyone can continue to shop normally,” he said. There was no sign of any panic-buying at a supermarket in south east London visited by this masthead on Tuesday morning AEDT.
Supermarket Sainsbury’s warned of shortages of lettuces, salad leaves, cauliflowers, broccoli and citrus within days if the issue was not resolved.
“We hope the UK and French governments can come to a mutually agreeable solution that prioritises the immediate passage of produce and any other food at the ports,” a spokesperson said.
Transport Minister Grant Shapps claimed the closure at the Port of Dover, which many Conservative MPs believe is warning shot from Macron to Britain as the two sides remain at odds over the future trading arrangement after December 31, had shown their Brexit preparations were working.
“Some of the reason why we have not seen big problems in Kent today, because the transition period work that’s been going on for very many months and years even is coming to fruition, a few weeks earlier than anticipated,” he said.
“It has shown that we are ready.”
Johnson said the government “fully understood the anxieties about the new variant” following widespread border closures imposed on Britain by numerous countries, just four days out from Christmas.
The British Prime Minister’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance warned that tougher restrictions imposed on London and the south-east of England, effectively cancelling Christmas for millions, would be widened across the country.
“The new variant is spread around the country, it’s localised in some places but we know there are cases everywhere, it’s not as though we can stop this getting into other places, there’s some there already,” Sir Patrick said.
“It’s likely this will grow across the country and it’s likely therefore that measures will need to be increased in some places in due course and not reduced.”
Johnson did not rule out keeping schools closed after the New Year.
Despite previously promising a return to normal life by Christmas which proved false, Johnson promised better times by Easter, saying half a million people had now received their first vaccine shots. Britain was the first country to approve the vaccine and began rolling it out one week ago.
Britain recorded another 33,364 infections on Monday, taking the weekly total of new cases to 203,845. A total 67,616 people have died.
Latika Bourke is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based in London.