Virus dampens holidays worldwide
More countries kick off vaccinations after new strain found
Published: Dec 24, 2020 06:58 PM
Thousands of truckers endured Christmas Eve stranded near a major British port, ensnared in the chaos unleashed by a new coronavirus strain, as Western nations accelerated their vaccination programs.

European nations on Wednesday had started easing travel bans on Britain to contain a new coronavirus strain that UK officials believe spreads faster, with thousands of lorry drivers stranded in Britain.

But some truckers feared there was little chance of making it across the Channel in time for the holidays, which have been marred around the world because of the pandemic.

"Home for Christmas? Forget it," said Laurent Beghin, a French driver who delivered his cargo of paint on Sunday but was still stuck in England as of Wednesday.

Scuffles broke out between police and truckers complaining of poor facilities and a lack of virus tests at one lorry park in southern England.

Passengers with negative virus tests on Wednesday also boarded the first Eurostar trains from London to France since border closures were introduced on Sunday, eager to spend Christmas with their families.

The new strain of the virus, which has also been detected in small numbers elsewhere, appears to spread more easily than other types but experts say there is no evidence it is more lethal or resistant to vaccines.

The co-founder of BioNTech - which developed a corona­virus vaccine with Pfizer - has said their prophylactic is "highly likely" to work against the new strain.

Fears over the strain, however, and surging coronavirus infections in general across the continent have severely dampened the mood over the holiday season in many countries.

Germany has been forced to cancel its famous Christmas markets and Pope Francis plans to bring the Vatican's Christmas midnight mass forward by two hours to meet Italy's curfew rules.

The EU is preparing to kick off vaccinations across the bloc on Sunday, hoping to turn the corner in the fight against the virus, which has infected more than 78 million people ­worldwide, with more than 1.7 million deaths.

The US - the worst-hit country in the world - has already started inoculations, and its Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that more than 1 million people have been vaccinated.

Vaccinations were kicking off elsewhere in the world as well. Switzerland, Qatar and Dubai in the UAE administered their first shots on Wednesday, while Serbia, hard-hit Mexico, and Costa Rica were set to begin on Thursday.

Even as vaccines are rolled out, many parts of the world are in the grip of worrying waves of infections, forcing ­governments to reimpose restrictions. 
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