Royal Mail has stopped delivering to several countries that have imposed travel bans on Britain, as the UK tries to clear a backlog of lorries held at the port of Dover, blocked from travelling to Europe amid a new Covid strain.

Britain’s postal service said on Monday that France, Turkey, Canada and other nations had been added to its “on suspension” list, as more than 40 countries worldwide have closed their borders to the UK.

It comes as Boris Johnson said on Monday that the UK is now working with France in order to clear the mostly-European lorry drivers that remain stranded at the port of Dover after the French government shut its borders for 48 hours.

During a Downing Street news briefing the prime minister pledged to clear the backlog, including some 170 HGVs waiting on the M20 motorway, “in the next few hours” after a telephone call with French President Emmanuel Macron.

“Everyone can shop normally,” Johnson added in a bid to dispel fears that food and medicine supplies would dry up amid the travel shutdown, with some reports of panic buying in British supermarkets on Monday. 

Countries across the world have closed their borders to Britain over the discovery of the VUI-2020/01 strain of Covid-19, which has spread across the country but is especially prevalent in London, the south-east and in eastern England.

Cases of the new variant, which early data suggests is up to 70 percent more transmissible, have also reportedly been discovered in other countries, including Italy, Denmark and Australia.

The UK government’s chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance said at the news briefing that the new strain’s rapid spread might mean that more areas of the country will have to be placed into the toughest Tier 4 coronavirus measures.

“I think it is likely that this will grow in numbers of the variant across the country and I think it’s likely, therefore, that measures will need to be increased in some places, in due course, not reduced,” he said.

On Monday the UK reported a further 33,364 positive coronavirus cases and another 215 fatalities, taking the total death toll to 67,616.

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