The prime minister was chairing a meeting of the government’s emergency Cobra committee on Monday after France banned lorries carrying freight from the UK and countries around the world ended flights.
The risk of “significant disruption” at Channel ports in Kent has sparked concerns about the UK food supply and the rollout of the Covid vaccine although ministers have moved to dispel these.
Johnson will now hold a Monday evening press conference in Downing Street in a further attempt to reassure the nation.
France’s transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari has indicated that its ban on hauliers crossing the Channel is set to end once the EU agrees bloc-wide measures “to ensure that movement from the UK can resume”.
Meanwhile, former Conservative chief whip – and chairman of the Covid Recovery Group – Mark Harper has led the calls for a recall of Parliament to “hold ministers to account” for the government’s decision to bolster Covid-19 restrictions ahead of Christmas.
It comes as former minister Sir Desmond Swayne accused the government of being “frightened” of such scrutiny.
Parliament broke up for its Christmas recess on Thursday, the day before the PM hosted a cabinet subcommittee meeting that discussed the extent of the new coronavirus mutation, which has a much higher transmission rate and has led to rocketing cases in London and the south-east.
MPs have been told to be on standby for any urgent breakthrough in the Brexit trade talks, with a recall of parliament possible between now and December 31, the deadline for the UK leaving its “transition period” under EU rules.
But the new Covid regulations which came into force at midnight on Saturday night do not need Commons approval as they are part of emergency laws used by health secretary Matt Hancock to police the pandemic.
Swayne, speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday morning, claimed the new variant had been known about for weeks and suggested the timing of the announcements was designed to keep MPs out of the process.
He said: “How convenient when Parliament went into recess on Thursday suddenly they were then able to produce this revelation.
“Let’s see the evidence then, let’s have Parliament back and show us and convince us, come clean.
“I want Parliament to be recalled so we can scrutinise properly in a democracy decisions that are being made which affect our economy radically and our liberty.”
Transport secretary Grant Shapps disputed the claim, saying the government “literally” couldn’t have acted any faster.