It has been an unprecedented year as countries across the globe continue to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
Just as we were seeing a glimmer of hope with the first vaccines being rolled out, a new mutated strain of COVID-19, said to be 70% more infectious, was blamed for the huge spike in infections in London and the South of England.
It led to Boris Johnson imposing tougher restrictions at the weekend, banning families from mixing at Christmas just days after announcing it would be “inhuman” to do so.
And as the 31 December deadline for the post-Brexit EU trade deal looms, calls have grown for Johnson to extend the transition period to focus on coronavirus and travel chaos as an ever-growing list of countries shut their borders with Britain to stop the new variant reaching their shores.
Conservative MPs, along with Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon, are asking the prime minister to request that the deadline for post-Brexit trade talks be pushed to next year.
Sturgeon tweeted on Sunday that Britain faced a “profoundly serious situation” with the new mutation of coronavirus, which “demands our 100% attention”.
“It would be unconscionable to compound it with Brexit,” she said.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan also called for the transition period to be extended, tweeting: “I’m urging the Government to officially seek an extension to the Brexit transition period.
“Securing our key supply chains and fighting the coronavirus pandemic requires the full and undivided efforts of ministers more than ever before.”
However, transport secretary Grant Shapps has said there will “absolutely not” be an extension.
He told BBC Breakfast: “I think the one thing which could actually add fuel to the fire would be ending something that everyone’s known is ending for a very long time, which is the end of the transition period which completes on the 31st December, so absolutely not, no.
“The important thing is that businesses continue to prepare, that individuals are prepared and as I say, as it happens, it’s because we’ve got some of those contingencies in place, for example being able to open up Manston as a lorry park for what’s actually happening today, that planning is in place, because of all the work that’s gone on with the Kent Resilience Forum and others preparing for the end of the transition, in any case.”
Watch: Ports shut as UK is cut off from Europe over coronavirus variant fears