UK-France Border to Stay Open at Christmas to Clear Truck Logjam


Dover, United Kingdom, Dec 24 (AFP/APP): Rail and sea links between the UK and France will remain open over Christmas to clear the backlog of thousands of trucks stranded by border closures due to the discovery of a new strain of coronavirus, Britain said Thursday.

Thousands of European truckers on Wednesday spent a fourth night sleeping in the cabs of their vehicles, which are stuck close to the major cross-Channel port of Dover while the drivers wait to pass a Covid test, as required by France for travel. Around 6,000 trucks were waiting early Wednesday evening to cross the border according to Britain’s Department of Transport, including 3,750 vehicles parked at the old Manston airport, which is also a Covid testing site. The others are stuck on the nearby roads in the southeastern county of Kent.

“As testing in Kent continues… I’ve spoken to my French counterpart (Jean-Baptiste Djebbari) and we’ve agreed the UK/French border at Eurotunnel, Dover & Calais WILL remain open throughout Xmas in order to help hauliers & citizens return home as soon as possible,” UK transport minister Grant Shapps wrote on Twitter.

Ferry services do not usually run between Dover and France on Christmas Day. The massive testing operation, which is being bolstered by the military, began late Wednesday under an agreement between London and Paris to resume the flow of cross-Channel traffic. France suspended the routes after a potentially more contagious variant of the virus was identified in Britain.

A team of 26 French firefighters arrived early Thursday in Dover with 10,000 tests to help the British and “accelerate” the return of European citizens, according to France’s ambassador to Britain Catherine Colonna. Shapps said 2,367 tests had been carried out by 1200 GMT Thursday, and only three truckers had tested positive.

“As the EU Transport Commissioner (Adina Valean) has tweeted, testing hauliers is not recommended. Spending days in a lorry on your own puts you in an extremely low risk category!” he added

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