French firefighters armed with 10,000 testing kits have today joined the battle to help thousands of stranded lorry drivers across the Channel, with up to 6,000 lorries now stacked up in Kent.
A group of 24 firefighters from the continent have joined the UK’s testing effort, personally administering the swabs to lorry drivers after President Emmanuel Macron demanded truckers be tested before crossing the Channel.
Around 100 NHS staff and 170 Armed Forces personnel are leading the UK’s testing drive this morning, aiming to test hundreds of truckers per hour in a bid to clear the backlog.
Unlike the French firefighters, the British testing teams are passing the swabs to the lorry drivers to self-administer – a method considered less effective due to the depth swabs have to administered into the nose.
It comes as Transport Secretary Grant Shapps today announced ferries and Eurostar services between Dover and Calais will run over Christmas in a bid to end the backlog. He said last night he hoped backlog could be fixed ‘by New Year’. Others experts say the backlog could take days to clear.
Lorries have been stacking-up on the M20 and in Marston Airfield in Kent since Sunday, when France slammed shut the border after the identification of a new mutant strain of Covid-19 in the UK.
French firefighters armed with 10,000 testing kits have joined the battle to get thousands of stranded lorry drivers across the Channel today, with up to 6,000 lorries now stacked up in Kent
A group of 24 firefighters from the continent have joined the testing effort, personally administering the swabs to lorry drivers after President Emmanuel Macron demanded truckers be swabbed before being allowed to cross the Channel
Unlike the the French firefighters, the British testing teams are passing over the swabs for lorry drivers to self-administer – a method which is considered less effective
It comes as Transport Secretary Grant Shapps today announced ferries and Eurostar services between Dover and Calais will run over Christmas in a bid to end the backlog. He said last night he hoped backlog could be fixed ‘by New Year’
A driver checks his COVID-19 lateral flow test at the Port of Dover, Kent, where thousands are waiting to resume their journey across The Channel after the borders with France reopened
Members of the British army help travellers to use covid-19 self-testing kits close to the entrance to the Port of Dover
Lorries queue on the M20 motorway to enter the Port of Dover following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak
Huge shopping queues form as supermarkets airlift in European fruit and vegetables in an attempt to stop food shortages caused by ports chaos
Huge queues formed this morning as supermarkets airlifted in fruit and vegetables in an attempt to avoid shortages of fresh produce caused by the chaos at Dover.
The British Retail Consortium has warned that there could be a lack of some fresh goods until the backlog of trucks is cleared, while the Food and Drink Federation is warning of ‘significant disruption’.
Meanwhile, the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps suggested the border mayhem could last up to the New Year as the Army and NHS rush to test every driver in a queue of up to 6,000 lorries.
The requirement to test all drivers heading to Europe – a key condition of France agreeing to restart trade – is delaying the speed at which lorries can restock on the Continent before returning to Britain.
German airline Lufthansa yesterday flew in 80 tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables into the UK for Tesco, Sainsbury’s, the Co-op and Aldi as thousands of hauliers remained stranded at the Kent border.
The airlift, which included lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, citrus fruits, and strawberries, came as Tesco began rationing several items and experts warned the border reopening was not soon enough to prevent shortages.
The Lufthansa airlift was commissioned by Venus, an Egyptian fruit supplier that is used by UK supermarkets. It landed at Doncaster Sheffield Airport just before 2pm yesterday, Lufthansa told MailOnline.
Food and Drink Federation CEO Ian Wright told The Grocer: ‘Last night’s news of an agreement to allow hauliers with a negative Covid test to enter France is very welcome progress.’
But he added: ‘Even working extremely quickly and with Calais possibly shut for Christmas Day, it is clear it could take until the new year to return to normal operations. Lorries will take time to return to their normal pattern of collection and delivery.
‘That means we are likely to see, locally, reduced on-shelf availability of some fresh vegetables and fruits, beginning next week. We will also see potential significant disruption to the flow of ingredients into the UK.’
MailOnline has contacted all the major supermarkets to ask if they had also put new restrictions in place.
Sainsbury’s, M&S, Morrisons and Aldi all said no, while Waitrose said had been restricting customers to two packs of toilet roll and three bags of flour for ‘a substantial period of time’. Lidl is yet to reply.
All supermarkets said they had plenty of stock.
Tensions boiled over last night in Kent as frustrated lorry drivers, who had been stuck at the border for days, waited to get a positive test.
One Polish lorry driver has told how he had to make the heartbreaking call to his pregnant wife and daughters telling them he was unlikely to make it home for Christmas, and would instead be spending it in his cab stuck on the A20 in Dover.
Wojtek Golawski is one of thousands of truckers stranded in Kent and facing disappointment over the festive season, with just 200 tests an hour being carried out on Wednesday.
There was then more confusion as it emerged that testing on Jubilee Way, the main route into the Port of Dover, was shut down last night before 10pm.
The Department for Transport insists the immediate priority had been to clear the main backlog of vehicles along that road, that testing would resume there in the morning, and that a 24/7 operation was also in force at Manston Airport, where thousands are parked up, and on the M20 motorway.
A spokesman added that the absence of testers in Dover overnight wouldn’t prevent access to the port, while the number of drivers tested each hour on Thursday is expected to ramp up to 500 or 600, with officials looking to set up ten mobile testing units for truckers stuck in queues.
Wojtek, from Lukow in Poland, had travelled to Britain in Sunday with pallets full of clothes, which he delivered to a depot in Nottingham. Like thousands of other delivery drivers, the 34-year-old has been stuck in Kent since the weekend.
Police have finally started letting drivers into the Port of Dover to be tested for coronavirus and, if negative, they can begin their journeys home.
Around 6,000 lorries, 4,000 at Manston Airfield and 2,000 on the M20, are said to be waiting to cross the Channel. Highways England has warned all drivers – including hauliers – to avoid travelling to Kent until further notice due to continued cross-channel disruption.
Grant Shapps last night said he was unsure at how long it would take to clear the backlog, but said he hoped it would be sorted ‘by New Year’. Today he tweeted that ferry and Eurostar services between Dover and Calais would continue over Christmas to help ease the backlog of lorries.
Wojtek, meanwhile, is parked a mile and a half from the front of the queue and so will almost certainly not make it back home in time to see his two girls aged three and five open their presents.
He said: ‘It’s a horrible situation and it shouldn’t have got to this, I think it’s France trying to flex their muscles before Brexit.
‘But it means that I’m not going to make it home to my daughters and to my wife, who is seven months pregnant.
‘I had to make a very tough phone call to her earlier this evening to say that the problems in England meant I would have to miss Christmas this year.
‘She and the girls were very upset and so was I. It’s going to be depressing celebrating it on my own in the same lorry cab I’ve spent the last two nights sleeping in.
‘But this is what’s happening and I have to accept it. Even if I make the ferry to France tomorrow, it’s still a huge drive.
‘Miracles do happen, especially at this time of year, but I think I’ll be in England for a few more days at least.’
Wojtek Golawski, pictured, said he was going to have to spend the peak of the festive season in his lorry cab stuck on the A20 in Dover rather than with his family in Lukow in Poland
Police officers and lorry drivers congregate at the entrance to the Port of Dover last night as testing got underway
Military personnel helping to take samples from drivers parked in the Port of Dover in Kent in a bid to get them moving again
The Army has been drafted in to help this evening after as few as 200 tests an hour were carried out in Kent yesterday
It is not known how many tests the Army is looking to carry out per hour but sources say it will be a ‘relentless operation’
Trucker named John Christmas admits he’s likely to spend festive season in a lay-by
Unlucky trucker John Christmas has admitted he will likely spend the festive season in his lorry parked in a lay-by.
The aptly-named Romanian driver will not make it home on Christmas Day as he cannot make it to Dover due to traffic problems.
He is currently parked at the side of Manston roundabout 18-miles from the port.
Unlucky trucker John Christmas has admitted he will likely spend the festive season in his lorry parked in a lay-by
Mr Christmas transports water from Dover to Birmingham but has been unable to get near the Port due to the traffic gridlock as thousands of other drivers try to reach France to continue home.
He told Kent Live: ‘I will spend Christmas in my trailer, whether it’s at the side of this road or in a car park in Birmingham, that’s unavoidable now.
‘I don’t need a COVID test. I have been waiting for hours but they won’t let me go.
‘All I need to do is go to Dover to drop my truck and pick up another one, but I cannot go there.
‘After that I will need to back to Birmingham and then back home to Romania.’
Meanwhile at the front of the queue Catana Florian, who had transported 20 dogs and six cats rescued from the streets of Bucharest to new homes in Britain, was hoping to make it back to Romania to see his wife and seven-year-old daughter.
He had made drop offs in Kent, Peterborough, Norwich and Colchester but had got stuck in Dover when the French closed the border.
The 45-year-old was hoping to get on a Calais-bound ferry to make the 28-hour drive home to Craiova.
He said: ‘I’ve made people’s Christmases by delivering them a new family pet – now I’m hoping the British and French authorities can make mine.
‘Myself and a colleague have been sleeping in the back of our van since Sunday and I’m now wearing old clothes again as I have no fresh ones.
‘We’ve been waiting such a long time to go home and now at last it looks like we are going to making the ferry at last as long as we test negative for Covid.
‘It’s cold and wet and I just want to see my wife and little girl again and be there with them for the big day.
‘As long as there’s no more hold-ups we should make it, that would be the best gift of all.’
Filipe Mayo, a truck driver from Portugal who has been waiting to cross into Calais for four days, told BBC Radio Four’s Today Programme: ‘At the moment I’m stuck inside my truck.
‘There are two lanes, one in the left and one in the right to the tunnel and shuttle. The right side where I am right now goes directly to Dover.
They stop us right now, nothing Is happening. We are just waiting for the instructions of the police who sometimes knock the door of the truck and say look forward and wait.
‘And that’s it for basically the last five hours. We are waiting for the coronavirus tests so nobody really knows how much time it’s going to take to get the test, so we are just waiting in the road.’
NHS staff arrived at Dover yesterday and began rolling out lateral flow tests which detect the new particularly contagious strain of Covid-19 and provides results in around 30 minutes, rather than the 24 hours required after a PCR test.
In order for anyone to travel through France, they must first produce a negative test.
A testing site had been set up at Manston Airfield, 18 miles from Dover, but the thousands of drivers who had parked up in the town after causing two mile tailbacks and traffic gridlock last night were unable to reach it.
NHS staff were instead bussed to Dover where the initial plan was to have them testing drivers while going from lorry to lorry but after police officers were attacked by frustrated drivers desperate to go home, 30 vehicles at a time were instead processed into the port to be tested.
The truckers’ struggles come as it emerged officials performed as few as 200 tests an hour in Kent, sparking fears the gridlock that has dominated the county all week, and seen 10,000 truckers stranded, could last for days.
Fights broke out between lorry drivers and police at Dover and Manston Airport as tensions boiled over while testing staff set up swabbing centres in a bid to get them across the Channel for Christmas.
But contractors have struggled to deliver the huge scale of testing ministers had hoped to see yesterday, with the military now in place to try and speed up efforts, which sources have described as a ‘relentless operation’.
At the front of the queue Catana Florian, pictured, who had transported 20 dogs and six cats rescued from the streets of Bucharest to new homes in Britain, was hoping to make it back to Romania to see his wife and seven-year-old daughter
A man is detained by police officers after a scuffle at the Port of Dover as tensions continue to boil over following the French travel ban
Police make an arrest at entrance to the Port of Dover, which is blocked by police as vehicles queue to be allowed to leave
Several police officers surround a man who is put in handcuffs at the Port of Dover where tensions have boiled over yesterday
Police spoke to frustrated truck drivers last night amid a large testing programme to try and get them back on the road
Cars drive towards check-in at the Port of Dover in Kent, after French authorities announced that journeys from the UK will be allowed to resume after the coronavirus ban was lifted, but those seeking to travel must have a negative test result
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron had earlier agreed a deal to let lorry drivers into France with a negative 30-minute lateral flow coronavirus test, after two days of chaotic gridlock following the French president’s fears over the new super-infectious strain of Covid-19 sweeping across Britain and other countries.
The Road Haulage Association said the chaos will probably last until Boxing Day with between 100 and 300 tests being carried out per hour at Manston and a total of more than 6,000 lorries to get through. Alongside Manston, tests have taken place at the Port of Dover itself.
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, today warned the backlog could cause issues in the supply of fresh goods to Britain. He told the Telegraph: ‘Until the backlog is cleared and supply chains return to normal, we anticipate issues with the availability of some fresh goods.’
A major flashpoint in Kent was at the entrance to the port, where drivers blocked the entrance in anger at not being allowed to cross the Channel without a negative coronavirus test from the UK Government.
To get that test – which is self-administered – they had to travel 18 miles to Manston, which is already full with 3,800 lorry drivers who also clashed with police today and broke out of the site in running battles with officers. Two men were led into a police van in handcuffs by officers earlier following a scuffle.
However, a further test site was this afternoon being set up at the entrance to the Port of Dover, although the junction was blocked by vans and cars with some even parked in the wrong direction. Other centres were also being put in place at at Dreamland amusement park in Margate and on the M20 heading towards Folkestone.
The first testers arrived at Dover shortly before 3.30pm, as four police cars escorted nine vehicles driven by medics into a car park. Officers were seen speaking to three women wearing blue disposable face masks and hi-vis jackets with the NHS Test and Trace logo before they walked towards the port’s passenger reception.
Dozens of truckers trying to reach their homes on the Continent tried to force their way past officers guarding the Port of Dover this morning. Hundreds left their cabs and walked along the A20 to the port entrance jeering and whistling, with some shouting in English: ‘Open the border’, ‘We just want to go home’ and ‘F*** you, Boris!’
At one point several of them surged forwards towards a line of Kent Police officers who were forced to push them back as days of simmering anger at the chaotic situation amid the pandemic bubbled to the surface. Some drivers showed police apparently negative results, but an officer said a lot of them were ‘fake test sheets’.
Tensions also boiled over at Manston Airport, where truckers whose lorries are being held staged a protest, broke down fences and blocked roads. Some 150 members of the Armed Forces and NHS staff are working to administer Covid-19 tests at the airport, which are handed to drivers in their cabs to be self-administered under supervision.
The result will then be communicated to the driver via text or email, identifying them via their numberplate. It wasn’t until after 5pm that Kent Council leader Roger Gough said the first 20 trucks have entered the Eurotunnel to make the crossing.
Meanwhile, a blue van, a white van and a silver Ford Mondeo were the first three vehicles to seemingly get the all clear and be allowed to drive through the port at just before 6.30pm. These were then replaced by a further 12 vehicles shortly afterwards.
A Test and Trace worker wearing PPE talks to a van driver at the Port of Dover earlier this evening in a bid to get traffic moving
Vehicles lined up this evening at a check point close to the entrance to the Port of Dover, where thousands are looking to head
Officials talk to drivers as testing commences at the Port of Dover with the aim of getting traffic moving over the Channel
Staff members wearing hi-vis jackets and visors talk to drivers as testing gets underway at the Port of Dover this evening
Testing has begun at the Port of Dover after a deal was finally struck between French and British officials late last night
A further test site was this afternoon being set up at the entrance to the Port of Dover, although the junction was blocked by vans and cars with some even parked in the wrong direction
Testers prepare to take samples from drivers parked in the Port of Dover in Kent after French authorities announced that the coronavirus ban was lifted and journeys from the UK will be allowed to resume
Cllr Gough said tensions between police and drivers had calmed down but added the situation remained ‘quite fragile’.
He said 100 lorries have left the Manston site for Dover but had been unable to get to the port as it was being blocked by other vehicles.
‘On the M20 side of things, the first 20 HGVs have gone into Eurotunnel,’ Mr Gough told Sky News, adding that the number should begin to ‘pick up’ rapidly.
Clashes broke out again between drivers and police at Dover earlier in the day as officers moved vehicles away from outside the entrance to make room for the testing centre. One driver laid down on the ground to stop a freight lorry which had earlier come off a ferry from Calais from leaving Dover with about 50 drivers involved in a flare-up.
Any new lorries arriving at Manston, a disused former military airfield, were being directed to Operation Brock on the M20, where 610 vehicles were waiting. A further 632 were placed in Operation Stack on the same motorway.
It comes as Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick warned it may take a ‘few days’ to clear the backlog of lorries waiting to cross the Channel. He had initially said he hoped HGVs would begin crossing this morning.
But lorry drivers at the entrance have been honking their horns and shouting in protest at being stuck. Standing in small groups, they shouted ‘we want to go home’ as they tried to shelter from heavy rain and strong winds.
A deal was finally struck with France after a ban on UK arrivals was imposed by President Macron on Sunday, which has since seen thousands of trucks stranded in Kent, unable to cross the Channel.
The agreement requires every driver to have been tested for coronavirus, using controversial lateral flow tests, which are able to turn around results in under an hour but have had their effectiveness questioned.
However experts warned the UK still faces an uphill battle to test 6,000 drivers a day for coronavirus – with the International Road Transport Union warning even a 30-minute test would be ‘absolutely a disaster’.
Kent Police said a man was arrested today in Dover for obstructing a highway and remains in custody, adding that there were ‘disturbances involving individuals in both Dover and at the DfT-run lorry holding facility at Manston’.
A spokesman also said: ‘At around 10.20am on Wednesday 23 December 2020 in Tothill Street, Minster, two men aged 24 and 35, in separate incidents, were arrested on suspicion of assaulting an emergency worker and were taken into custody.’
Detectives added that officers at both locations were ‘working with partner agencies to make sure those hoping to travel to the continent adhere to the latest Government travel requirements regarding Covid testing’.
A Port of Dover spokesman said no lorries had yet been able to pass through the port and couldn’t say how long it would take to clear the backlog. Officials also confirmed there were no testing facilities at the port itself.
And Eurotunnel officials said the first trucks started to arrive at its Folkestone terminal at 8am today, adding that all drivers must use the M20 and join the queue on the coastbound lanes where they will be tested for Covid-19.
Truckers clash with police at Manston Airport in Kent this morning where thousands of lorries are currently parked up
Truckers hold up their hands as they clash with police at the disused Manston Airport in Kent this morning
Truckers clash with police in Manston, where they have blockaded the A299 in Kent this morning in a mass protest
Lorry drivers at the entrance have been honking their horns and shouting in protest at being stuck. Standing in small groups, they shouted ‘we want to go home’ as they tried to shelter from heavy rain and strong winds
A Port of Dover spokesman said no lorries had yet been able to pass through the port and couldn’t say how long it would take to clear the backlog. Officials also confirmed there were no testing facilities at the port itself
Freight lorries lined up in Manston Airport in Kent as drivers wait to get tested for coronavirus this afternoon
Dark clouds loom over thousands of lorries parked up at Manston airfield in Kent, waiting to be given the green light to continue their journey over the Channel
Truckers remove traffic cones before clashing with police outside Manston Airport in Kent this morning
Hundreds of angry truckers have blockaded the A299 at Manston Airport in Kent this morning in a mass protest
Freight lorries lined up in Manston today after the French announced that journeys from the UK will be allowed to resume
Angry truckers speak to police amid chaotic scenes at the A299 at Manston Airport in Kent this morning
Lorry drivers carry out a mass protest at the A299 at Manston Airport in Kent this morning as the chaos continues
Chaos at Manston Airport in Kent this morning where the Covid testing station has been set up for the truckers
Those who come back negative will be told by text message in as little as 20 minutes, and be given the green light to travel, but positive cases will get a PCR test – and if they are still positive, sent to a Covid-secure hotel to isolate.
Mr Macron had wanted lab-processed PCR tests which can take up to 72 hours before results are received. But he caved in after a third night of talks following pressure from fellow European leaders who urged a compromise.
PCR vs lateral flow Covid tests: Chaos as UK and France clash over type of testing used for truckers
The French government had previously demanded that any travellers from the UK, including truckers, take PCR tests before arriving in the country, which can take up to three days to return a result. The UK, meanwhile, insisted on quicker lateral flow tests. A statement tonight confirmed either a PCR or lateral flow test sensitive to the new variant will suffice, though the EU recommends rapid tests should be used to avoid disruption to cargo flows.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PCR TEST AND A LATERAL FLOW?
A PCR test can cost upwards of £180 per person, with the swab needing to be processed in a lab.
The UK, on the other hand, favours faster tests which are not lab based and give a result within 15 minutes.
These rapid coronavirus tests, known as lateral flow tests, are ones that can be done on the spot using portable equipment.
They are faster and cheaper than lab-based PCR tests, which the government uses to diagnose people, but are less accurate.
LATERAL FLOW TESTS ARE RAPID – BUT CAN SACRIFICE ACCURACY
In a lateral flow test a swab is used to get a sample from the person’s nose or throat and it is then processed in a small machine that tries to detect the coronavirus by mixing the sample with something the virus would react with.
If there is a reaction in the mixture it suggests that the person is carrying coronavirus. If not, they get a negative result. This process can be completed in as little as 15 minutes.
You take your own swab though a professional on site processes it through the machine.
However, as the swabs are often taken by people themselves, the accuracy of the test could be hampered as they may not push the swab deep enough to get enough of a sample.
Results from trials have varied wildly and show the tests perform better when the swabs are done by trained medics and worse when people do them themselves.
PCR TESTS CAN TAKE SEVERAL DAYS TO GET RESULTS – BUT ARE MORE ACCURATE
These lateral flow tests differ from the gold standard PCR test – known scientifically as polymerase chain reaction testing.
PCR tests also use a swab but this is then processed using high-tech laboratory equipment to analyse the genetic sequence of the sample to see if any of it matches the genes of coronavirus.
This is a much more long-winded and expensive process, involving multiple types of trained staff, and the analysis process can take hours, with the whole process from swab to someone receiving their result taking days.
It is significantly more accurate, however. In ideal conditions the tests are almost 100 per cent accurate at spotting the virus, although this may be more like 70 per cent in the real world.
This compares to a much lower sensitivity in lateral flow tests, with a trial of one type used in Liverpool suggesting they miss around 50 per cent of the people who would test positive with PCR.
SO, WHAT IS THE BENEFIT OF LATERAL FLOW TESTING?
Extreme accuracy may be a drawback for PCR now that so many people have been infected, however, with the tests able to detect shreds of the virus in people who recovered weeks ago and are no longer infectious, which may lead them to have to self-isolate unnecessarily.
Lateral flow tests are more likely to miss people who are carrying the virus but, experts say, do have value as a way of weeding out people carrying large amounts of the virus and therefore most likely to be spreading the disease.
The Smart Clinic, in London, charges clients £195 for a PCR test with independent lab testing. Pall Mall medical charges £129 for the same test.
The French Embassy in London has issued a list of dozens of antigen tests which are authorised for entry to France here.
They include tests manufactured by the likes of ‘WuHan UNscience Biotechnology’, ‘Guanzhou WONDFO Biotech’ and ‘Anhui Deepblue Medical Technology’.
A Whitehall source said: ‘Many of these are European lorries – there are a lot from Poland, for example – and [EU] member states have been telling France they want to get their drivers home. In the end, Macron folded.’
Until January 6, only lorry drivers and French and EU citizens or residents who have an essential reason to travel and who show a negative test result less than 72 hours old will be allowed into France.
A testing site has been set up at Manston Airfield, but it is unclear how the thousands of drivers who parked up in the town causing five-mile tailbacks and traffic gridlock are going to reach it. Another testing point was being set up today three miles away at the Dreamland amusement park in Margate to help increase capacity.
Furthermore, a third mobile testing centre was being set up on the roundabout at the entrance to the Port of Dover, but the junction was blocked by multiple vans and cars with some even parked in the wrong direction.
This has meant not a single lorry was able to enter the port this morning despite the border technically being open. Shortly before 11.30am, a police officer shouted: ‘We need everybody to move and clear the roundabout because a mobile Covid test centre is coming here.’
One angry Polish driver stuck at Dover today told MailOnline: ‘We are sick of this – I’ve been in Dover for two days and want to go home for Christmas. The French said their border was being opened but we haven’t seen any evidence of this being true. There’s thousands of people queuing to get through the port and the roads are all at a standstill. Nobody wants another night sleeping in their cab.’
However a police officer at the scene said: ‘I understand why they are angry but they are directing their anger towards us when it’s the French authorities making the rules. They are insisting that only people who have tested negative for Covid-19 can come through. A lot of these drivers are waving fake test sheets.’
Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishops of Rochester, Dover and Tonbridge have written a joint statement condemning the ‘unacceptable’ conditions in Kent.
The message read: ‘As Anglican leaders in Kent, we are dismayed by the situation in Dover. We recognise the need to take urgent precautions to slow the spread of the new strain of coronavirus. But to leave seasonal workers, families and some truck drivers without adequate food and sanitary facilities is unacceptable – both for those stranded and for the people of Dover.
‘For those now unable to return to their families in mainland Europe for Christmas – at the end of this year of such great suffering – the heartbreak and frustration is immense. Local councils in Kent are stretched to the limit trying to support all those who are stuck. We applaud council workers, churches, other faith groups and volunteers who are providing hot meals and other kinds of support.
‘These efforts are heroic. Kent’s local authorities are doing everything they can with the resources they have. But this is a national issue and the Government needs to intervene decisively. The necessary provisions must be given for people to endure this ordeal with their dignity intact, making sure enough Covid tests are available so drivers and workers can return home as soon as possible.
‘As we reflect on the coming of the Christ-child born in a manger, we are reminded of our responsibility to respect the God-given dignity and value of every human being. May that be the case for the people of Kent, for all those in Dover, in France and everywhere this Christmas.’
There are also concerns over shortages of fresh goods amid the backlog. British Retail Consortium director of food Andrew Opie said: ‘It is good news for consumers as the French borders have now reopened, however it is essential that lorries get moving across the border as quickly as possible. Until the backlog is cleared and supply chains return to normal, we anticipate issues with the availability of some fresh goods.’
German airline Lufthansa said it was sending a Boeing 777 freighter to Doncaster Sheffield Airport today with 80 tonnes of fruit and vegetables on board, with officials examining whether additional special cargo flights could be flown to the UK over the next days.
Staff wearing fluorescent jackets bearing the NHS Test and Trace logo arrived in Dover last night ahead of the testing rollout after travelling 230 miles from Doncaster.
As many as 6,000 tests a day could be carried out in a bid to help clear the huge backlog, with 150 soldiers also set to be drafted in to help. It comes as:
- More areas of England could be put into Tier 4 from Boxing Day amid fears over the new strain spreading;
- Experts have found it has already spread around the UK, with cases identified in Wales and Scotland;
- Health chiefs in Cumbria say it is in the county and could be behind sharp increases in new cases;
- Lancashire’s director of public health said there was a ‘high likelihood’ the new variant was in the county;
- Labour says it will back any Government moves to tighten restrictions scientists recommended it;
- Sinn Fein said an island-wide travel shutout should be introduced in Ireland to stem the variant’s spread.
A man who appeared to be leading a group of drivers protesting at the Port of Dover said this afternoon: ‘We are not letting any vehicles out until we can get in. Police told us we will not be tested here at first. Now they are saying the testing centre is on the way.
‘I do not believe them. And I am not moving until we are tested and told we can go home.’
Police took control of the roundabout parking police vehicles around it with roads leading to it gridlocked. An officer was heard telling the group: ‘We need you to move so we can get the ferries running again. Then we can get you on your way. The testers are on their way.’
The group of drivers stood across the road and waved their hands in the air chanting as police formed a human barrier and pushed them away. Shortly after 2pm, the group allowed four cars and a white coach carrying P&O staff which had been waiting since around 10am to get into the Port.
Officers had to clear the cars and vans which had blocked the roundabout next to the entrance to let vehicles through. They were escorted into a holding car park inside the Port while police cars blocked any more vehicles from entering the junction.
One policeman screamed ‘stop’ at an over-eager Romanian lorry driver who attempted to skip the queue.
Meanwhile Home Secretary Priti Patel tweeted: ‘The UK-French border is reopening. Priority is to get lorries moving and mass testing is underway. We urge hauliers not to travel to Kent as we work to alleviate congestion – travelling now will slow things down. Tourist travellers who are not French residents should not travel. My huge thanks goes to the police and Border Force who are working hard to keep everyone safe.’
But Greg Mazurek has been trapped at Dover since Monday after delivering respirators to a medical centre in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire. He is trying to get back to his home in a Poznań in Poland for Christmas.
Hundreds of angry truckers have blockaded the A299 at Manston Airport in Kent this morning in a mass protest
Drivers at Manston today are now being refused entry as the site is full and they are being told to go back on to the M20
Lorries lined up at Manston Airport in Kent after the French announced that journeys from the UK will be allowed to resume
A man is detained by police at Manston Airport in Kent this morning where they have gone for Covid testing
Police manhandle a lorry driver at Manston Airport in Kent this morning amid chaotic scenes across the county
A lorry driver moves a traffic cone as truckers clash with police outside Manston Airfield in Kent this morning
Drivers clash with police outside Manston Airfield this morning, as they are refused entry for Covid testing
A lorry driver walks around with a traffic cone at Manston Airport in Kent today where the testing site has been set up
Lines of freight lorries and heavy goods vehicles parked on the tarmac at Manston Airport near Ramsgate this afternoon
The Department for Transport issued this warning on its social media accounts, urging drivers against travelling to Kent
He said: ‘The police were not clearing the port to set up a testing centre, it was to let lorries out of Dover. That’s why the drivers are now stopping the vehicles from leaving because they want to force the police to do something.
‘We’ve been told different things by different police officers about what’s happening. Who do we believe? People are angry because they want to go home. The irony is that I’m more likely to get this new Covid standing here among dozens of people than being alone in my cab which I had been before.’
German airline Lufthansa said in a tweet this afternoon that it was sending a Boeing 777 freighter to Doncaster Sheffield Airport today with 80 tonnes of fruit and vegetables on board
Passengers from the UK disembarked from ferries in the port of Calais following Britain and France’s deal easing the travel ban imposed over the discovery of the new Covid-19 variant. Much of Europe swiftly banned entry by British travellers and UK freight after a more transmissible strain of the coronavirus was found in Britain.
The ‘Cotes des Flandres’ ferry – the first ship to leave Dover after the restrictions were lifted – arrived at around 3.30am local time (2.30am UK time), followed shortly afterwards by P&O’s ‘Spirit of France’.
A handful of passenger vehicles disembarked from the two ships but traffic was not expected to pick up until late this morning according to port officials.
At Manston, two Romanian lorry drivers told today how they were among the first to be tested. The pair, named only as Marian and Bacy, were tested at the airfield 1 miles from Dover in the early hours of this morning.
They were given a lateral flow test which is supposed to detect the new strain of Covid-19 and has results in half an hour. But they said they had not yet been alerted as to whether they tested positive or negative.
Marian said: ‘We are still waiting so we don’t know the results yet. We drove to Dover yesterday but when we found out the testing centre was going to be at Manston we headed there. We got in about 1am and waited a few hours and were tested early this morning.
‘It was quite chaotic, there was some confusion over what forms we needed and which QR code to scan. We drove back to Dover afterwards but the whole place is shutdown and nobody is going anywhere.’
Drivers stand with their HGV freight lorries blocking the entrance as they to enter the Port of Dover in Kent this afternoon
Police deal with a man lying on the road in front a freight lorry as it tries to leave the Port of Dover in Kent this afternoon
One driver laid down on the ground to stop a freight lorry which had come off a ferry from Calais from leaving Dover today
Traffic blocks the roads around the Port of Dover in Kent this morning after the border was reopened by the French
Lorry drivers remonstrate with each other outside the entrance to the Port of Dover in Kent this afternoon
Scuffles outside the Port of Dover this afternoon as lorry drivers protest outside the entrance after a 48-hour shutdown
Lorry drivers play with a ball in the road leading to the entrance to the Port of Dover in Kent this afternoon
Vehicles wait at the entrance to the Port of Dover which has been blocked by police as they queue to be allowed to leave today
Police hold back drivers trying to enter the Port of Dover today after French authorities announced that the coronavirus ban was lifted and journeys from the UK will be allowed to resume, but that those seeking to travel must have a negative test result
Police officers stand guard next to the White Cliffs of Dover this morning at the entrance to the Port of Dover in Kent
Police hold back crowds of lorry drivers at the Port of Dover in Kent today after it re-opens following a 48-hour shutdown
Emil Herkt, 26, from Tczew in Poland had delivered a consignment of metal to a warehouse in London on Sunday and been stranded in Britain ever since. He said: ‘It’s a farcical situation – nobody is telling us anything.
‘We have to apparently be tested for Covid but none of us know where to go. There is a testing site at Manston but that’s full already. Plus it’s nearly 20 miles away and the roads in and out of Dover are paralysed with traffic.
German ambassador to the UK Andreas Michaelis said he was scheduled to meet with German truck drivers at Manston Airport today, but could not make it through the traffic. He tweeted: ‘Went to Manston Airport today. Scheduled to meet up with German truck drivers. Last stretch difficult. Could not reach the airfield. Could only speak to them on the phone. Still very difficult situation for them. Too little information’
‘So how do we get there anyway? Why haven’t the authorities set up testing here by the port where everyone is? It’s ridiculous as people are battling to get back to their homes for Christmas.
‘The French are being very awkward and I mainly blame them but the British authorities haven’t handled this situation very well either.’
Ovidiu Badoiu, 47, a Romanian lorry driver who drove to Britain at the weekend to deliver a stock of fans to a factory in Telford, Shropshire, has been stuck in Dover since Monday.
He said: ‘It’s really difficult, I picked up my load in Romania and took it to the destination in the Midlands on Sunday and came down to Dover the following day where I’ve spent the last two nights sleeping in my lorry.
‘There are no toilets here, nowhere to get washed. I live in Valencia in Spain and just want to get back to my wife in time for Christmas. I think the French are being over the top about this, why are they not letting the lorries through? Hardly any of us are stopping in France, just travelling through it on to other destinations.’
British trucker Eric Johnson, 50, was waiting to collect his empty trailer from the Port of Dover before he can return home to Wolverhampton.
He spent two nights at the Motis truck stop off the A20 in Dover with colleagues Dave King, 48, and Dean Hammond, 31. The trio had been delivering a cargo of Caterpillar heavy machinery parts to Lokeren, Belgium.
While Mr King and Mr Hammond managed to retrieve their empty containers yesterday evening, Mr Johnson’s was delayed. He left at 6am today after having a shower and shave to go home for Christmas.
Lorry drivers are stopped by police at the Port of Dover in Kent this morning as the chaos on the south coast continues
The Port of Dover in Kent is seen empty this morning despite the UK and France agreeing a deal to reopen the border
A police officer speaks to lorry drivers at the entrance to the Port of Dover in Kent this afternoon
Police hold back drivers trying to enter the Port of Dover in Kent this morning amid further chaotic scenes on the south coast
Police officers patrol at the Port of Dover today with thousands of lorries stranded around Kent this afternoon
Police hold back drivers trying to enter the Port of Dover in Kent this morning as the pre-Christmas chaos continued
Police hold back drivers trying to enter the Port of Dover today after French authorities said the coronavirus ban was lifted
Police clash with drivers outside the entrance to the Port of Dover in Kent as the roundabout is cleared this afternoon
A man shouts at police officers at the Port of Dover this morning. Thousands of lorries were stranded around Kent after France banned all travel from the UK on Sunday, citing concerns over a new variant of Covid-19
Drivers stand in front of a truck as they block one of the exit lanes at the Port of Dover in Kent this morning
Police officers stand in line across the exit lane at the Port of Dover in Kent this morning
A police officer talks with lorry drivers queued at the Port of Dover in Kent today as thousands are stranded in the county
But he moved less than half a mile in four hours on the A20 approaching the Port and has no clue when he will be able to get out. Mr Johnson said: ‘Honestly right now I just feel so depressed. I keep forgetting what day it is.
Virus variant means ‘Operation Moonshot’ rapid tests are now the key to breaking Dover deadlock – but they may be effectively useless when self-administered
The Road Haulage Association has confirmed the Army are working with NHS staff at Manston Airport in providing tests to hauliers to be self-administered in their cabs under supervision.
The result will be communicated to the driver via text message or email, identifying them via their number plate.
But Number 10’s ambitious Operation Moonshot has come under fire from top scientists amid fears the rapid coronavirus tests being rolled out across the UK aren’t good enough as ministers shelved plans to open up mass testing centres over Christmas.
Moonshot has been slated as way to use the rapid kits – which cost a fraction of the price of gold-standard PCR tests – to test millions of people and help them get back onto flights abroad, into stadiums and venues, and to keep children in classrooms.
Lateral flow swabs give results in minutes but miss around half of infections, by the Department of Health’s own admission.
But damning evidence shows they may be effectively useless when self-administered, despite Downing Street’s current testing scheme relying on people taking their own swabs.
French President Emmanuel Macron has even specifically called for lorry drivers travelling across the Channel from Britain to be tested using higher-quality PCR as the nations continue to clash over the roadblock in Kent.
If rapid tests miss huge proportions of cases they will trigger outbreaks caused by people who think they’ve got the all-clear but are actually infected, experts fear.
The tests are more accurate when swabs are carried out by trained professionals because they have to be pushed deep inside the nose or throat. But scientists fear Britain simply doesn’t have the money or enough spare medics to do this nationwide every day, with health chiefs instead accepting DIY swabs to save time.
Government departments have forked out hundreds of millions of pounds on different types of the lateral flow tests for use on the public and in hospitals, and they’re being trialled by councils across the country to try and weed out silent infections.
But concerns about their accuracy have reportedly led to plans to open mass testing centres over Christmas being shelved, with public health directors raising fears that led to the programme being scaled back, The Guardian reported.
Firms making the three tests approved by the Department of Health claim they are between 95 and 99 per cent accurate at detecting cases in lab conditions, but early real-word trials suggest tests don’t live up to manufacturers’ accuracy claims. However, some companies insist their tests are for ‘medical professional use only’, meaning the Government is not using them in the right way.
Scientists warn they give a false sense of security because no test is good enough to rule out an infection in someone who doesn’t have symptoms, and they don’t prevent them picking up the virus on their way home from the test.
It comes as the UK’s medical devices regulator has approved lateral flow test for home use but said they must not be used to allow people to change their behaviour if they get a negative result.
‘It’s Wednesday right? I’ve done two nights in the cabin and 50 hours in Dover but as soon as I can return home, I get stuck in this. It’s just not moving and apparently has been like this since 1am when the border reopened.
‘Luckily I’ve got enough food and water stored up but now the issue is I don’t have a toilet. I can’t just leave my truck here. I’ve seen people trying the doors of vacant vehicles. ‘
Multiple drivers loudly sounded their horns in protest at the delays which set off a chain reaction of beeps heard for miles. Tempers had flared earlier that morning as patience thinned, according to Mr Johnson.
He added: ‘I don’t reckon many people here queueing have actually been tested. Apparently some drivers were ramming down metal barriers at Manston. And some here were barging the cones at the Port entrance while pushing police.
‘I’m scratching my head as to how this has happened and how they can solve this. There’s an empty carriageway next to us so why can’t they clear the fast lane on to there to let people into the port and keep traffic moving?
‘I just want to get home now but I think I might end up calling it a night at Ashford Truck Stop.’
Roads into Dover were gridlocked today, causing traffic chaos with hundreds of vehicles parked up waiting to be allowed down to the ferry terminal. Residential streets as far as three miles away from the port were at a standstill.
Locals bared the brunt of the traffic backlog with some seen deciding to pull a U-turn and retreat home. Vehicles were held on the A2 Jubilee Way with queues building up for five miles back to the Honeywood industrial estate.
The traffic at the Whitfield Roundabout continued back on to the A256 – the main road HGV drivers who have had their Covid-19 test at Manston Airport near Ramsgate will use to return to the Port of Dover.
And Raluca Marian, general delegate to the European Union of the International Road Transport Union, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘We are definitely in a better place than yesterday. At least the border is now open.
‘But the testing is a big issue. We have now several thousand drivers already at Manston Airport and in the Kent area, but we estimate around 10,000 and there are still around 7,000 to arrive there.
‘We are happy that finally we have a deal, that the borders are open. At the same time this testing is a big challenge for us and we don’t think it will work. The backlog can’t be cleared if you get 30 minutes per driver, even with these quick tests, that’s going to be absolutely a disaster.
‘In spring, we had the famous temperature checks at the Austrian border in the first wave of the corona. It was much less than 30 minutes, round about five to ten minutes, and we had 60km (37 miles) of queues just because of these temperature checks.
‘Now that was a constant flow, so we didn’t have the backlog. Now we have 10,000 trucks piled up. So, New Year’s Eve, after New Year’s Eve, difficult to calculate.
‘We know that the European Commission is supporting and that pressure is being put on France to accept a better solution for testing. We know France insisted to have PCR tests for everybody, which is absolutely crazy, especially truck drivers.
‘This is really a lonely profession, they are alone in their cabins, they are not spreading.
‘They are not only unnecessary, it’s a breach of France’s commitment earlier in the year when they committed to leave the logistics chain unaffected.
‘So we hope to have – at least if these tests are being kept, which we really hope not to be, we want no testing for truck drivers because even a 30-minute test is a disaster – but if these are kept, at least a kind of a compromise whereby you might have a testing corridor in France and not everybody stuck in the UK and tested there, could be reached and accepted by France, and we know the Commission is supporting that.’
Downing Street sources admit the programme ‘won’t be perfect’ from the off given its unprecedented nature, and warn that it could still be several days before traffic is flowing smoothly again.
Lorry drivers hold up their arms as they tussle with police at the entrance to the Port of Dover in Kent this afternoon
Police officers patrol in front of queues of vans and lorries at the Port of Dover in Kent this afternoon
Waiting lorry drivers cook in the back of a trailer at the entrance to the Port of Dover in Kent this afternoon
A man speaks to a police officer at the Port of Dover in Kent this morning with thousands of lorry drivers stranded
Lorry drivers are stopped by police officers at the Port of Dover in Kent this morning as the chaotic scenes continue
Police hold back drivers trying to enter the Port of Dover in Kent this morning after France lifted the travel ban
The Port of Dover in Kent is seen empty this morning despite the UK and France agreeing a protocol to reopen the border
Lorry drivers remonstrate with police officers as they ask for Covid-19 tests to be brought to them at the Port of Dover today
Lorry drivers wait at the Port of Dover in Kent this morning amid chaotic scenes witnessed across the county today
Lorries are parked on M20 motorway near Ashford this morning as the chaotic scenes on the roads in Kent continue
Police hold back drivers trying to enter the port in Kent today after French authorities announced that the ban was lifted
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told Sky News today: ‘We have had productive discussions over the last 24 to 48 hours, they have reached what seems like a sensible way forwards.
Pariah Britain: Singapore and the Philippines are the latest countries to ban UK flights from Christmas Eve over new mutant Covid strain taking total number of nations imposing restrictions to 55
Two more countries have imposed travel bans on the UK ahead of Christmas Eve after the identification of a new coronavirus strain in Britain.
Singapore will ban entry to UK travellers from Wednesday night. Health officials in the Philippines say they will suspend flights from the UK from Christmas Eve until December 31.
It brings the total number of countries restricting entry to UK travellers to at least 55.
The latest bans could also have a wider impact on British travellers, with Singapore a popular stop-off for those flying from the UK to Australia.
Singapore health officials say transit from the UK through the Southeast Asian city-state will not be allowed under the new travel ban.
The ministry of health website said: ‘All long-term pass holders and short-term visitors with recent travel history to the UK within the last 14 days will not be allowed entry into Singapore, or transit through Singapore.
‘This will also apply to all those who had obtained prior approval for entry into Singapore.’
Transit through the Philippines for UK travellers is also banned.
It comes after Greece and Cyprus both said they will require passengers from the UK to have three separate Covid tests to gain entry to stem the spread of a mutant strain of the virus – while all other EU member states have slammed their doors on Britain.
Both nations require evidence of a negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test prior to arrival, followed by a rapid lateral test after landing and then a third after a period of self-isolation.
PCR tests need to be processed in a lab, while lateral flow tests can deliver results in 15 minutes but are less accurate.
This is particularly the case when people administer the test themselves, as they often do not push the swab deep enough to get enough of a sample.
Greece and Cyprus are the only EU members not to have imposed blanket bans on UK travellers. France today lifted its ban to French nationals, Britons living in France, as well as haulage vehicles.
Yesterday the European Commission advised all other 25 states to lift their embargo on trains, planes and lorries from Britain to avoid further disruption.
‘There is going to be quite a lot of work to do over the next few days and this isn’t going to be an issue that will be resolved immediately.
‘I wish events hadn’t played out in the way they have, but they have, we now have to move on and ensure that traffic can flow as quickly as possible across the Channel.
‘I hope that this morning you’ll see people and HGVs crossing the Channel at the short straits. We’re putting in place the infrastructure, so the Armed Forces will be doing that in the first instance to help us to set that up and to get through some of the backlog that you’ve seen.
‘They will then in turn hand over to civilians who will take this forward. We have a good operation in Kent that’s been tested very significantly in the last few days, led by the Kent Resilience Forum, but it has performed well.
‘So the work that had been done over a number of years to create the facility at Manston Airport, to create Operation Stack on the motorway, has worked quite successfully, but there is now a great deal to do.
‘The procedures are there. There will be testing at Manston and at multiple other locations. If you test positive using the swift lateral flow test, you’ll then be offered a PCR test, so you can get an even more refined outcome.
‘If you test positive again, you will then be offered Covid-secure hotel accommodation, and we’ve procured the first one of those not so far away.
‘So the HGV drivers will be able to drive there, leave their lorry there, and self-isolate for the next ten days before they’re able to cross the Channel successfully.’
The Communities Secretary said as of 7pm last night that there were just under 3,000 lorries at the disused airfield site at Manston,.
Between 700 to 800 were part of Operation Stack on the M20, he said but ‘other HGVs and smaller vehicles are parked elsewhere in Kent’.
‘Whatever the number is, whether it is 4,000 or more, it is a significant number to work through,’ he acknowledged as he advised hauliers not to travel to Kent.
The Road Haulage Association said the testing regime ‘still means we will have delays at the border’.
The RHA estimates between 8,000 and 10,000 delayed lorries are now in Kent and its surrounding areas, in truck stops and at depots waiting for borders to reopen and to cross the Channel.
Chief executive Richard Burnett said: ‘It’s hats off to the Secretary of State for Transport for making this happen sooner than originally anticipated.
‘However, I fear that the thousands of truckers stranded in Kent aren’t out of the woods yet. The massive backlog of vehicles will take time to clear and hundreds of drivers run the risk or not getting home in time for Christmas’.
The RHA added that on-site staff at Manston are providing tests to hauliers to be self-administered in their cabs under supervision.
The result will be communicated to the driver via text message or email, identifying them via their number plate. The French Government will also carry out sample testing on incoming freight to the UK.
It is expected the Department for Transport will set out further details of the testing programme.
Lorries which departed a DFDS ferry were trapped and abandoned in the Port after a foreign van blocked the A2 Jubilee Way carriageway out of Dover.
Lorry drivers remonstrate with police officers as they ask for Covid-19 tests to be brought to them at the Port of Dover today
Lorry drivers trying to get to the Continent are stopped by police officers at the Port of Dover in Kent this morning
People walk past the line of freight lorries waiting to enter the Port of Dover in Kent this afternoon
A man smokes a cigarette in the back of a van which is parked on a roundabout at the Port of Dover in Kent this morning
A man is restrained by a police officer at the Port of Dover in Kent today as tensions boil over this morning
A driver remonstrates with a police officer while trying to enter the Port of Dover in Kent this morning
A message posted on the windscreen of a lorry waiting to enter the Port of Dover in Kent this afternoon
A woman shouts at a police officer at the Port of Dover in Kent today amid chaotic scenes on the south coast this morning
The Port of Dover in Kent re-opens this morning after a 48-hour shutdown when France closed its borders from the UK
Lorry drivers walk along the road at The Port of Dover in Kent this morning amid chaotic scenes following the reopening
Gridlock in Dover this morning after the port re-opens after a 48-hour shutdown when France closed its borders from the UK
A man takes a photograph of a DFDS ferry docked at the Port of Dover in Kent this afternoon
Mr Burnett said that the queues of lorries on the M20 might not be cleared until Boxing Day.
Covid-19 tests for lorry drivers will lead to border delays, haulier group says
Imposing a coronavirus testing regime on lorry drivers crossing the English Channel ‘still means we will have delays at the border’ and that UK supply chains will be hit, according to the Road Haulage Association (RHA).
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said rapid lateral flow tests – which can give results in about 30 minutes – will be used to test HGV drivers at the ports in a deal to reopen the border between France and the UK.
The French authorities will be carrying out similar testing on hauliers entering the UK in a programme that is set to get under way on Wednesday.
The RHA estimates between 8,000 and 10,000 delayed lorries are now in Kent and its surrounding areas, in truck stops and at depots waiting for borders to reopen and to cross the Channel.
A spokesman added: ‘Even if the border is opened up, a short delay in the process is going to mean huge delays in the supply chain.’
Chief executive Richard Burnett said: ‘There are many serious implications to this latest situation, even lateral flow Covid testing will have a massive impact on the supply chain.’
The welfare of the drivers is also an issue, with Mr Burnett saying: ‘What happens to them? How is it all going to play out? Are they going to be tested on site or are they going to have to go somewhere else to do it?’
Mr Burnett also questioned what would happen to the drivers who test positive.
‘They will be unfit to drive but where will they go?,’ he added. ‘They will be unable to quarantine with their families in Europe and what will happen to their vehicles?
‘Who will be responsible for the deep cleaning of their cabs? And for those carrying return loads, what will happen to their cargo? This is going to be an extremely expensive exercise.’
It is expected the Department for Transport will set out the full details of the testing programme on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Transport secretary Grant Shapps has announced a temporary relaxation of drivers’ hours for hauliers – increasing the driving limit of nine hours to 11 – to help them get through UK borders safely over the coming weeks.
He added: ‘I think there’s no clear picture as to how long it’s going to take, but my estimations after conversations with Grant Shapps is it could be Boxing Day.
‘Part of the issue is you’ve got restricted services on the Eurotunnel and the ferries are likely to finish tomorrow morning. The border police aren’t going to be working on Christmas Day in France.
‘Bearing in mind the government has been trying to prepare for transition which is in eight days’ time, you would’ve expected these plans to be well rehearsed. It’s an absolute disgrace that they’re not well prepared at all. It’s a scenario that could’ve happened in the case of no-deal.’
He added that Manston Airport, the main testing centre for drivers, was gridlocked with lorries. He said: ‘The current situation is that Manston is gridlocked and Brock and Stack are in place.
‘They’re trying to do the lateral flow tests, anything between 100 and 300 per hour. It’s more likely to be the low number than the higher number to start with.’
He added: ‘They’re going to give drivers two litres of water every day. We need to ensure that drivers have got sufficient food and water. Kent County Council were giving cereal bars yesterday morning which was not enough.
‘The Sikh community went with takeaways last night and the Salvation Army, but the government should have had this in place.’
Mr Burnett added that 20 takeaway food vans which were meant to be coming to Manston Airport this morning had still not arrived. Many drivers have been without shower facilities for more than two days.
Mr Burnett said he understood that testing was now underway on the approach road to Dover for drivers who were stuck in the queue outside the port.
Natalie Elphicke, MP for Dover, said it would take days to sort out the disruption caused by the closure of the border.
She said: ‘It is welcome news that the French have re-opened the border. But they shouldn’t have shut it in the first place. France’s actions have caused unnecessary and unacceptable levels of widespread disruption to Dover and the surrounding area.
‘It will take some days to unwind and sort out the disruption caused by the French. Local residents are rightly very angry about this and the impact on the town.
‘Setting up a testing capability of this scale from a standing start is a massive task. All the more so as lorries are scattered all over the area.
‘However, testing is now underway, and that must include mobile testing units in Dover town itself so that the traffic starts to clear from the town.’
Van driver Emil Leveu, 30, is desperate to return home for his eight-month-old son Dominic’s first Christmas. His vehicle is filled with presents for poor children back in his home country of Romania from English charities.
He welled up as he said: ‘I just want to get back home for Christmas with my first child Dominic. It will be such a special moment in his life and if I miss it because of this, I will be furious.
Cross-channel ferries operated by DFDS sit moored to the quayside at the blockaded Port in Dover in Kent this afternoon
People sleep in their vehicles as they queue trying to enter the Port of Dover in Kent this morning
Vehicles wait at the entrance to the Port of Dover, that is blocked by police, as they queue to be allowed to leave today
A driver shows a police officer his mobile phone at the Port of Dover as it re-opens this morning after the 48-hour shutdown
Vehicles wait at the entrance to the Port of Dover in Kent this afternoon which has been blocked by police
Police officers speak to drivers at the Port of Dover in Kent this morning as cross-Channel traffic gets back underway
The town centre of Dover was also gridlocked this morning as lorry drivers clashed with police at the Kent town’s port
Lorries queue up on the A2 on the outskirts of Dover this morning as the traffic chaos around the Kent port town continues
A driver shows a police officer his phone displaying a negative Covid-19 test result at the Port of Dover in Kent today
Passengers board a Eurostar train at St Pancras International station in London today as services resume to the Continent
‘I want to spend the holidays with my family but I don’t think I’ll be able to. This makes me so sad because I look around and see other parents stuck here missing their kids too.
Which countries have banned flights from the UK?
All flights from UK banned –
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden.
UK travellers allowed with a negative test –
Cyprus, Greece – three negative tests required plus self-isolation.
Still allowing own nationals to enter –
Hungary, Portugal, Spain. From today France is allowing French nationals, British nationals living in France and haulage vehicles to enter
REST OF EUROPE
All flights from UK banned –
Norway, Switzerland, Turkey,
REST OF THE WORLD
All flights from UK banned –
Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Iran, Jamaica, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, The Philippines.
Still allowing own nationals to enter –
UK travellers allowed with a negative test –
‘We have charities calling us saying ‘where is our parcel?’ I have to tell them it is still stuck in Dover. I came back here last night after getting a private Covid test at a testing centre. I came back negative.
‘I now have an appointment to cross the border but now that say only tourists and small cars. So now I am stuck right at the front of the queue. I will not even stop in France or get out as I have enough diesel in the car. I have been here for three days with no sleep, no shower, no nothing.’
Fellow Romanian van driver Florin Albu, 28, said after berating police officers for not letting him through: ‘I went to Manston and paid for the test. I am negative. I was told the test is free but when I got there, I had to pay £150 of my own money.
‘This is s***. The problem is the French are like this because of Brexit. It has nothing to do with Covid. This is all because England is leaving the EU. It is punishment and we are the victims.’
Bulgarian national Niko Mirchev, 23, has been stuck in Dover for four days and is in the gridlocked queues without having a coronavirus test.
The DHL delivery driver who has lived in Portsmouth since the age of 18 said: ‘If we are stuck for more days then it is not the end of the world for me as an adult but it is the little children who are stuck here that I really feel sorry for.
‘I just want to be home with my family for Christmas, as does every other person here including the policemen. In two days it will be Christmas and I could still be 3000km away from my family.
‘One Romanian man I spoke to said his mother is waiting for him in hospital and told him all she wants for Christmas is him to be there with her. It is just not fair.
‘You cannot be calm in this situation as they have just shut the border and done nothing about it. Macron and the people in charge of this are not human. They are not even animals.
‘An animal would either eat you or leave you alone. They would not f*** us like this.’
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the French police were only acting on the agreement to reopen the border from this morning and ‘severe delays’ were continuing.
He said: ‘Testing has begun as we look to get traffic moving again between the UK and France. However, French border police only acting on agreement from this morning and severe delays continue.
‘Please AVOID Kent while the backlog is cleared. Arriving in the area will delay your journey.’
Staff wearing fluorescent jackets bearing the NHS Test and Trace logo arrived in Dover yesterday evening ahead of the huge testing regime, having made a 230-mile journey from Doncaster, according to ITV journalist Harry Peet
People wait for the reopening of the Port of Dover at the port entrance in Kent in the rain last night
A man gestures on his knees as lorry drivers demand the reopening of the Port of Dover in Kent yesterday
Drivers and passengers of vehicles try to access the port at Dover in Kent overnight as they are spoken to by police
A person sleeps in a car seat amid chaotic scenes at The Port of Dover in Kent which have now been going on for days
A man tries to jump start a van as he waits for the reopening of the Port of Dover in Kent overnight
Drivers and passengers of vehicles try to access the port at Dover in Kent overnight as they speak to officers
Traffic heads for The Port of Dover in Kent overnight but is at a complete standstill
Police direct traffic at the entry to the Port of Dover in Kent overnight as the chaos continues
Police officers block access to the port in Dover overnight after France closed its borders to accompanied freight
Earlier, Mr Shapps had said: ‘We have managed to get all those tests to Kent, enough for all the vehicles which will want to return before Christmas, so that won’t be an issue.
Tough new measures adopted by Greece and Cyprus
Evidence of a negative PCR test before arrival;
Rapid lateral flow test on arrival followed by 10 days of self-isolation;
A second PCR test afterwards.
Evidence of a negative PCR test before arrival;
PCR on arrival, followed by seven days in self-isolation;
‘Obviously there’s a physical issue of providing the test, getting the results. A negative test allows you to leave.
‘But all of that requires operationalising and that can’t happen in an instant, so this will take two or three days for things to be cleared.’
France and the UK had previously been at loggerheads over which type of test would be required to allow trucks back on the road, with the travel ban imposed in response to fears about the spread of the more infectious coronavirus strain, which is spreading rapidly in the UK.
Mr Macron demanded the gold-standard PCR tests are used, which are more expensive, lab-based tests that can take up to 72 hours to process.
The UK, on the other hand, had wanted to use the faster lateral flow tests which can provide results within an hour – even though these are considered less effective unless administered by a nurse and were even dubbed effectively useless.
In a statement, the French foreign affairs ministry said that from midnight today there would be a ‘limited resumption of the movement of people from the United Kingdom to France subject to negative health tests sensitive to the variant’.
It added that a negative test result, taken less than 72 hours before the journey, is required and this can be either a PCR or lateral flow test sensitive to the new variant, though a Department for Transport statement only mentions the quick tests.
Those who can make journeys include French and EU residents, British or third-party nationals who normally live in France or the EU, as well as some other groups.
The deal marks a significant breakthrough after a long period of deadlock, with Brussels having called for an end to the border blockade which has seen 4,000 more lorries park up in Kent.
Mr Shapps had tweeted last night: ‘Good progress today and agreement with the French Government on borders. We will provide an update on hauliers later this evening, but hauliers must still NOT travel to Kent this evening.’
All-clear for Covid-19 tests at home: Tens of millions of 30-minute virus swabs are set to be sent out… but you can only use them to confirm you need to isolate – NOT to make decisions on whether to mix with family and friends
Rapid Covid tests have been cleared for use at home – but with strict conditions attached, it has emerged.
Regulators have given the go-ahead for lateral flow devices (LFDs), which give results in 30 minutes, to be used at home by members of the public.
Boris Johnson’s hopes of avoiding future lengthy lockdowns rest in part on approval of the tests, of which there are tens of millions already stored in UK warehouses.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) allegedly blocked a plan to post millions of the tests to households last week.
But now they have been given the all-clear, according to the Financial Times.
However, it says the regulator has placed strict conditions on their use – which may limit their appropriateness as an alternative to social distancing.
The MHRA is said to be ‘keen to emphasise that the devices are allowed to be used only to ‘find’ cases of Covid-19 infections, so that people who were not aware they had the virus are able to isolate’.
‘They are not to be used to ‘enable’ people to make life decisions,’ they added.
In a lateral flow test, fluid is taken in a swab of the nose or the throat and applied to a piece of absorbent paper that will change colour to indicate whether or not the virus is present, taking just 15 to 30 minutes to produce a result
Ministers have suggested LFDs as a way to help regions come out of tougher lockdowns, enable relatives to visit care home residents and let schools open on time in January.
But there is fierce debate about whether they are effective enough to allow people to make decisions about their behaviour and movements.
The University of Oxford initially found the tests picked up 77 per cent of cases, rising to over 90 per cent of the most infectious.
However, accuracy fell from 79 per cent when used by experts to 58 per cent when carried out by ordinary people without any training.
Real-world testing in Liverpool found the LFDs only picked up 49 per cent of cases.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said earlier this month that lateral flow testing ‘should not be seen as a way on its own of enabling high-risk activities to take place, but could reduce the risk of activities that are due to occur anyway’.
French transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari added: ‘French nationals, residents and those with a legitimate reason to be here must provide a negative test.’
Eurotunnel said only pre-booked passengers who had already tested negative should go to its terminal.
‘From 23:00hrs on 22/12/2020, to travel to France passengers will need: – A negative result from a Covid-19 test accepted by the French Government – Taken in the last 72 hours – An email or SMS certificate issued by the testing facility. Please ensure you meet the French Government’s criteria before travelling to our terminal.
‘There is no Covid-19 testing facility at Eurotunnel. Go to our website to book or amend tickets. PLEASE DO NOT ARRIVE WITHOUT A BOOKING AS WE ARE FULLY BOOKED.’
It comes amid reports that the British military is preparing to test up to 6,000 hauliers a day with the controversial lateral flow test.
The EU has urged European countries to drop all travel bans imposed on the UK, including on the movement of freight, as a growing number of trucks now fill the motorway and side streets near Dover.
The bloc’s recommendation suggested rapid tests should be used to avoid disruption to cargo flows.
The European Commission also published guidance at lunchtime yesterday recommending all non-essential travel to and from the UK should be ‘discouraged’ because of the risk posed by a new mutant strain of coronavirus which spreads quicker than its predecessor.
But it added: ‘Flight and train bans should be discontinued given the need to ensure essential travel and avoid supply chain disruptions.’
On the specific issue of UK lorry drivers being allowed back onto the continent, Brussels said that where a member state requires them to take a coronavirus test before being allowed in – something France has pushed for – the process ‘should not lead to transport disruptions’.
There has been a furious behind-the-scenes row over the issue of testing lorry drivers with France and Britain both arguing for different methods of testing.
Operation Moonshot, Number 10’s ambitious plan to use the rapid kits to test million of people, came under fire from top scientists, with the Department of Health admitting they miss around a half of infections.
Furthermore, damning evidence now shows they may be effectively useless when self-administered, despite Downing Street’s current testing scheme relying on people taking their own swabs.
Hundreds of soldiers are being deployed to the former Manston airfield, according to the Times, where they will use the 20-minute lateral flow tests on drivers, with those returning positive results told to isolate in hotels.
Even despite last night’s breakthrough, the scale of the backlog on both sides of the Channel means disruption at the ports is expected to last until at least Christmas Eve, with supermarkets warning of potential shortages of fruit and vegetables unless solutions are sped up.
Rachel Reeves, Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister, has accused the Government of ‘dither and delay’ over its handling of the situation in Kent.
She said: ‘Once again, our communities, local businesses and restaurants are having to step up to the plate to feed lorry drivers who are stranded and exhausted.
‘All this while businesses exporting British produce are halted and put under even more strain by the chaos. We really don’t need any more dither and delay from this Government.’
Elizabeth de Jong, policy director at business group Logistics UK, has said it is ‘vital’ that testing procedures are ‘stood up fast to ensure drivers can be processed and get home for Christmas safely’.
She added: ‘The backlog of traffic across the region will take time to clear so hauliers should wait for further news before travelling to Kent.’