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Thousands of lorries still stuck in Kent as France re-opens border

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·3-min read
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Lorry drivers walk about on the M20 in Kent where freight traffic is parked up near to Folkestone services whilst the Port of Dover remains closed.
Lorry drivers walk about on the M20 in Kent where freight traffic is parked up near to Folkestone services whilst the Port of Dover remains closed. Photo: PA

Thousands of lorries and their drivers remain stuck in Kent despite France re-opening the border to drivers with a negative coronavirus test result.

HGV drivers have been stuck in the area since the border was temporarily closed on Sunday night, with business chiefs estimating thousands more are stuck across the UK because of backlogs.

The transport secretary Grant Schapps has called for “patience” from the thousands of stranded drivers, asking drivers to “follow instructions” from British officials in order to “get traffic rolling.”

Vehicles began travelling through the Eurotunnel again on Wednesday after the French government agreed to allow drivers with a negative COVID-19 result through.

However, there are concerns it could take days to carry out tests on the hauliers.

Some drivers clashed with police in Dover on Wednesday, while others protested by blocking roads near the lorry holding facility at Manston Airport, where stranded hauliers have complained over a lack of food and toilet facilities.

There were 3,750 vehicles at Manston, an overspill site for lorries unable to travel, as of late Wednesday, along with 632 HGVs on the M20 as part of Operation Stack and 1,690 in Operation Brock, the Department for Transport (DfT) said. Fewer than 100 vehicles left the Port of Dover on Wednesday.

READ MORE: UK travel ban leaves 4,000-truck backlog

“The issue is just the logistics of people following the instructions and making sure we can keep the port clear in order that we can get the traffic rolling,” Shapps told the BBC.

“The more that people follow the clear instructions the faster we can get this resolved.

“It will take a matter of days rather than weeks or anything else but there will be, I’m afraid, some patience required.”

He said the UK government was providing “welfare” for the stuck drivers and would continue to do so in the days to come.

WATCH: Lorry drivers and police remain in Dover

Drivers at the disused airfield site at Manston have been required to give the tests to themselves in their cabs under supervision. Around 170 military personnel are assisting with testing.

France faced new criticism for imposing its blanket ban from EU figures.

“I am pleased that at this moment, we have trucks slowly crossing the Channel, and I want to thank UK authorities that they started testing the drivers at a capacity of 300 tests per hour,” Adina Valean, the European Union’s transport commissioner tweeted, after the border between France and the UK was opened on Wednesday.

“I deplore that France went against our recommendations and brought us back to the situation we were in in March when the supply chains were interrupted.”

READ MORE: China becomes latest to ban UK travellers as UK limits South Africa flights

France imposed the travel ban in response to fears about the spread of the more infectious coronavirus strain, which is spreading in the UK.

Lorry drivers are required to show proof of a negative test result carried out within the past 72 hours in order to be able to cross the border to France.

All drivers, regardless of nationality, will have to take a lateral flow test which can detect the new strain of COVID-19 and return results in about 30 minutes, according to he Road Haulage Association (RHA).

Any who test positive for coronavirus will be offered a second PCR test to confirm the result, and if they test positive again they will be moved into COVID-secure hotel accommodation to self-isolate for 10 days.

Hauliers have been urged to continue to avoid travel to Kent until further notice.

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