Thousands of truck drivers stranded in England had to forego Christmas dinner with their families. For days they had been stuck in traffic at the border. Now thousands of tests finally brought relief.
After thousands of negative corona rapid tests in the Kent border region, most truck drivers were able to cross the border into France after standing still for days. “In the meantime, 15,526 # coronavirus tests have been carried out,” tweeted British Transport Minister Grant Shapps on Saturday afternoon. “Only 36 positive results that will now be verified.” Only drivers with a negative Corona test result are currently allowed to cross the border from England to France by sea or through the tunnel because of a mutated virus variant.
The closed Manston Airfield, where the drivers in their trucks were waiting for the tests, is now empty and should no longer be used, Shapps said. On Friday evening, around 3,000 trucks were still in traffic, and by Saturday morning half of them would have left the port, according to the Ministry of Transport. The traffic is slowly returning to normal.
Thousands of drivers were stuck in traffic for days
Many of the drivers had been waiting on the motorway in front of the English Channel for days and had to spend most of the Christmas days in their cabs. France had completely closed its border because of a coronavirus variant newly discovered in Great Britain, possibly even more contagious. On Wednesday, London and Paris agreed on the reopening – on the condition that all drivers coming from England are tested before crossing to the continent.
At Manston Airfield: A British soldier speaks to a driver. The army conducted thousands of corona tests on the premises. (Source: Cpl Nicholas Egan / Royal Air Force / MoD / PA Media / dpa)
However, representatives of the logistics industry warned on Saturday not to breathe a sigh of relief. “It’s not over yet,” said Duncan Buchanan of the Road Haulage Association, according to the PA news agency. Many drivers had postponed their journeys due to the situation and would queue up again in the coming days.
“This is a difficult Christmas”
More than 1,000 forces from the British Army as well as French fire fighters and medical teams from Poland had helped to test as many drivers as possible in a short time. They also provided those waiting with food packages and drinks. Several aid organizations also helped the stranded with essentials. Many drivers had previously complained that they had run out of water and food. There weren’t enough toilets either.
Compulsory break for thousands of trucks: Thousands of drivers had to wait days on the Manston airfield before they could continue. (Source: Steve Parsons / PA / AP / dpa)
According to the German ambassador in London, Andreas Michaelis, some German drivers were also stuck in the chaos on the holidays. “This is a difficult Christmas,” wrote Michaelis on Twitter.
The British opposition MP Barry Sheerman criticized: “Thousands of truck drivers are stranded in dire circumstances in Dover and neither the Prime Minister nor any other cabinet member have the courage to pay them a visit on Christmas Day. Shame on you,” wrote the Labor politician on Twitter .