European lorry drivers have been seen pouring booze and decorating a Christmas tree with tin cans amid fears they may be forced to spend the festive season separated from their families while stranded in Dover.
Attempting to keep spirits high, one driver was today seen pouring wine into cardboard drink cups before serving it to his friends, while another group enjoyed a vodka and Coke around a small Christmas tree decked with used drinks cans.
Others also attempted to take the travel chaos in their stride. One Turkish long-haul truck driver, seemingly unfazed by the mass-disruption around him, was seen tucking into a Mediterranean breakfast at a Kent truck stop off the M20.
Another cooked breakfast from the back of his lorry. One driver was also spotted hanging out clothes and towels to dry on the front of his lorry.
But not all were happy with the disruption. Today furious French drivers blamed Emmanuel Macron for the chaos at Dover after his travel ban left hundreds stranded in the UK.
One French apple grower cried ‘Macron, merde! Let me come home,’ as she anxiously awaited news on plans to lift the cross-Channel travel ban.
Marie Noelle, 63, from the city of Tours, desperately wants to cross the Channel to attend the funeral of her mother, who died on Sunday.
But she and hundreds of others like her today remain stranded in the Kent port town as French and British officials attempt to thrash out a deal to lift the travel ban.
It came as the EU urged European countries to drop all travel bans imposed on the UK, including on the movement of freight.
Industry experts estimate that more than 4,000 food and drink lorries are being held up by the French travel ban which has caused gridlock at the port of Dover. Photos showed 873 lorries parked at the disused Manston Airfield – which was previously reserved for a No Deal Brexit.
Some fear not being able to return to their families in time for Christmas, while others have bemoaned the toilet situation for stranded drivers – with one saying ‘they are not a pretty sight’.
Emergency talks are taking place today in a bid to end the travel ban, with the French president expected to announce plans to reopen the border later today.
The 48 hour closure is due to end at 11pm UK time tonight but France was not alone in imposing restriction on the UK, with more than 40 countries having banned flights.
The decision by France to ban freight, as well as passenger travel, caught Number 10 off guard with some officials and ministers of the view that Mr Macron is trying to use the situation as leverage in Brexit talks. A transport industry source told The Times that Downing Street was ‘incandescent’ when the ban was announced.
But with talks ongoing today over a possible border Covid testing scheme, and Highways England warning that delays could last several days, some lorry drivers fear the prospect of missing Christmas with their families.
European lorry drivers have been seen pouring booze and decorating a Christmas tree with tin cans amid fears they may be forced to spend the festive season separated from their families while stranded in Dover
Attempting to keep spirits high, one driver was today seen pouring wine into cardboard drink cups before serving it to his friends
Another group of Romanian lorry drivers, enjoyed a vodka and Coke, wine and beers around a small Christmas tree decked with used drinks cans
As the chaos ensued around him, with huge queues of lorries on the M20, one resourceful Turkish long-haul truck driver (pictured) enjoyed a Mediterranean breakfast on the side of the motorway
He and his fellow truck driver sat down to breakfast at a truck stop off the M20 motorway, which leads to the Port of Dover
Another lorry driver, trapped waiting to be allowed back to France, was spotted hanging clothes and towels to dry on the front of his lorry
A freight driver prepares his breakfast in the back of his lorry after spending the night in the queue of trucks on the M20 motorway in Kent
Another among the queues waiting to cross the Channel was French apple grower Marie Noelle, 63, who was desperate to return home to Tours for her mother’s funeral
Emergency talks are ongoing in a bid to end the cross-Channel blockage, with the French president expected to announce his plan to end the travel ban later today. Pictured: Truck driver Victor from Ukraine
Truck driver Janke from Poland poses with his cooking apparatus set up in the back of his van, whilst the Port of Dover remains closed, in Dover, southern England
Ms Noelle faces missing her mother’s funeral due to the travel ban. Her mother, Paulette Poujet, died aged 87 on Saturday after a four month battle with Alzheimers.
Ms Noelle said: ‘The funeral is at 2pm on Wednesday. I simply must be there. I want to go through first but I know every person wants the same.
‘But we have a seven hour journey from Calais and it does not look like we will move soon. This makes me so sad. I cannot stop crying.
‘Look at this situation with all these people waiting. It is not normal. I am French, but this is all our fault.’
Others fear the prospect of missing Christmas with their families due to the travel ban.
One lorry driver told BBC Radio Four’s Today Programme: ‘I feel bad, really bad, terrible in fact. We known nothing, we don’t know if we can get home to see our families for Christmas.’
On plans for lorry drivers to be tested before their return, he said: ‘It will be good, but maybe in Dover there are 1,000 to 1,500 lorries.
‘If they implement testing here then maybe it will be a good idea, but they need to start now to get to Christmas Eve.’
‘There is no words to describe this. I came on Sunday and on Sunday they decided to close it. If I knew that one day before, I would never have come here.’
A police officer speaks with drivers parked near the Port of Dover as he directs them to head to Manston Airport – where lorries are parked in their hundreds
As many as 1,500 lorries are thought to be waiting to cross the border if and when the 48 hour restrictions are lifted. France’s ban, introduced after the identification of a new Covid-19 strain in the UK, is set to end at 11pm tonight. Pictured: Polish truck driver Marcin Pastok
A man who brought food for the lorry drivers at Manston Airport, Kent, speaks to media after being refused permission to deliver the supplies to lorry drivers who have been parked at the site as part of Operation Brock after the Port of Dover was closed
With talks ongoing today over a possible border testing scheme, some lorry drivers fear missing the prospect of missing Christmas with their families. Pictured: Queuing lorries parked on the M20 on the way to Dover
Lorry drivers lined up on the M20 chat to each other while the Port of Dover is shut as part of Operation Stack, Folkestone
A lorry driver walks down the M20 as the Port of Dover closes after the Government said a ‘mutant’ virus was in England
Brosik Asaad from Finland came over to the UK to purchase a car and drive it back – but now has to wait and to pass the time. He is seeing cleaning his car on the seafront and enjoying a couple of cans of Coca Cola
Romanian lorry drivers drink alcohol on Dover seafront as they wait for the border to France to reopen
Lorry driver Caspar Pecherzewski, from Poland, is also among the lorry drivers caught up in queues at Dover since Sunday.
The 22-year-old said: ‘We can find a toilet, at a gas station or something, but we don’t have showers and stuff.
‘No one is saying anything about how long we will be here. The police just told us to wait.
‘I think I won’t be getting paid while waiting here and my company don’t know what to say because they don’t know what to do, the ports are closed.’
He added: ‘We’re stuck here and we don’t know how long it will take, this situation. It’s really f***** up.’
Trucker Elvis Abdulcair, 43, has a shipment full of Christmas cards and presents posted from England to Romania in his van.
Long-distance lorry driver Geoff Moxham could be about to miss his first Christmas at home in 45 years after France closed its borders with Britain
He fears they will not be delivered in time for the big day on December 25.
Mr Abdulcair, who is driving with colleague Daniel Dragomir, also 43, said: ‘I feel like Santa Claus with no reindeers. My sleigh is grounded.
‘It is very bad because all these people will not have their cards and presents from their family in time for Christmas.
‘The French government is s***. They have ruined it for everyone. And for what?
‘I have been here two days now and don’t know how much longer it will go on for. I just want to go home.’
Greg Mazurek, 36, and Simon Kopanearz, 30, have been stuck near the front of the queue outside the Port since 1pm on Monday.
Mr Mazurek was less than impressed at the toilet situation. He said: ‘No one has come to see us with food or anything. We have storage for three days but now we are having to go to the shops for food and water.
‘The bigger problem is the toilets in the city centre as there is a lot of drivers having to use them. It is not a pretty sight.’
Along with European drivers, British hauliers also face issues due to the travel ban.
Long-distance lorry driver Geoff Moxham could be about to miss his first Christmas at home in 45 years after France closed its borders with Britain.
The Cheltenham grandfather did not realise he was on the last ferry out of Dover until he started talking to a French member of staff who asked him how he was planning to get home.
Now, instead of putting his feet up on Christmas Eve, the dad-of-four faces being stuck at the side of the road with thousands of other drivers or driving down the motorway home.
He said: ‘I was 66 yesterday and spent my birthday on the road and I’m not planning to do the same at Christmas.’
‘I haven’t missed a Christmas at home for 45 years so I will be there even if I have to get a boat.’
HGV driver Frank could have officially retired on his 66th birthday on Sunday. Instead he was delivering heavy machinery to Germany for Charles Russell Transport in Deerhurst and drove on to the ferry to Calais at around 6pm on Sunday.
‘I was on the last ferry leaving the UK but I didn’t know until one of the French crew members I know wished me luck getting home
European truck drivers pose for a photograph as they wait for the port to reopen in Dover
Truck driver Ronald Schroeder, 52, from Hamburg speaking to media outside the Port of Dover
A lorry driver shows the papers for a police officer at the entrance of the Port of Dover
People chat with police officers at the entrance to the Port of Dover today, as the port remains shut
Pictures showed workers in green jackets handing out bottles of water today. Kent County Council has been handing out cereal bars to stuck truckers
PCR vs lateral flow Covid tests: Chaos as UK and France clash over type of testing used for truckers
The French government is demanding 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.
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.
‘When I asked what he meant he said they were all finishing work and there would be no more transport back to the UK. I was completely taken aback.
‘I couldn’t believe it. There weren’t any announcements and nobody had said anything until then.’
However he remains determined to make it home for Christmas.
He said: ‘I’ve been married for 44 years and have four daughters and 12 grandchildren so we normally have big family Christmases.
‘I don’t know what happening this year but my wife just called and asked if I can pick up some fresh vegetables on the way back.’
Laszlo Baliga, who was delivering food and water to those parked on Manston Airport runway, said one driver had told him the only toilet on the site was blocked.
‘No water and no toilet now – there is one toilet, but it is now blocked,’ the 51-year-old told the PA news agency.
Mr Baliga, from London, who himself is a lorry driver, said he began taking supplies to the disused airfield after Hungarian drivers posted on Facebook asking for help.
‘We have taken money from friends and gone to Asda, Tesco,’ he said.
‘This is our third time, we have already brought ready-to-eat sausages, bread, tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, coffee. Basic foods for now for the drivers.’
He said he and others have spent more than £500 on food and water for drivers inside the site.
‘When we see Hungarian drivers coming in we say stop, and the drivers take the things into the other side to give to everybody,’ he said.
‘We like to help because this is a difficult time.’
Pictures showed workers in green jackets handing out bottles of water today. Kent County Council has been handing out cereal bars to stuck truckers.
It comes after Dover was yesterday plunged into a second night of chaos with up to 1,500 lorries now filling the motorway, side streets and laybys in the Kent town following the travel ban.
Emergency talks are ongoing in a bid to end the cross-Channel blockage, with Macron expected to announce his plan to end the travel ban later today.
Boris Johnson last night made a personal appeal to the French president to lift the shutters to the continent.
They were slammed shut by France on Sunday night after the identification of a new Covid-19 strain in the UK.
Britain and France are today discussing ways to control the spread of the virus, with testing at the border thought to be a key point in the discussion.
However a row is emerging over how and where to test drivers wanting to cross the channel.
France favours the slower PCR tests which can take up to three days to return with a result and can cost more than £180.
Paris also wants the testing to be carried out before an individual arrives on French soil.
This would put the cost of the programme on the UK and, with the inherent delay that comes with PCR tests, mean that delays at the border could last past Christmas, confining drivers to their lorries over the festive period.
France would also require arrivals to have some kind of certificate proclaiming their negative test result.
The UK, on the other hand, wants to use a rapid lateral flow test which can return a positive or negative result within 15 minutes.
Vanessa Ibarlucea, of France’s National Federation of Road Transport, hit out at Macron’s preference for a PCR test.
She said: ‘It takes 48 hours to get an appointment and another 48 hours to get the results of a PCR test.
‘So our drivers will not be home with their families in time for December 24. Our drivers have been abandoned in a foreign country.’
However, even if this quicker method is used, the testing programme could cause logistical chaos with potentially 6,000 drivers a day needing to be screened.
Around two thirds of these drivers use the port of Dover and a third the Eurotunnel.
Today Highways England warned the chaos around the Kent port could last for days. Hundreds of lorries are currently waiting to cross the English Channel when it reopens.
The highways authority has urged hauliers not to drive to the border. Traffic measures Operation Stack and Operation Brock have been activated in a bid to calm the travel chaos.
The Business, Energy, Industry and Sustainability Select Committee (BEIS) was today warned that halted trucks ‘need to move in the next 24 hours’ if supermarkets are to avoid empty shelves.
The warning came as Brussels said travel from the UK to the EU should be ‘discouraged’ due to fears about the mutant variant of coronavirus while talks continue to lift current bans on movement.
Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), told MPs that the number of food and drink lorries affected by travel restrictions was far higher.
‘I don’t think the number of trucks in the queue is the relevant number,’ he said. ‘We reckon about 4,000 are on their way to Dover at various points. Anyone seeing this all happening in the run-up would have parked somewhere else, somewhere more congenial and in a better state.’
Duncan Buchanan, director of policy, England & Wales, at the Road Haulage Association, told MPs he was disappointed with how the Government presented the levels of freight disruption on Monday evening.
The 48-hour ban, introduced on Sunday after the identification of a new Covid-19 strain in the UK, is set to end at 11pm tonight
Dover was yesterday plunged into a second night of chaos with up to 1,500 lorries now filling the motorway, side streets and laybys in the Kent town following the travel ban
Trucks are parked lining the streets in Dover, whilst the Port remains closed, in Kent, following Emmanuel Macron’s travel ban to France
As many as 1,500 lorries are thought to be waiting to cross the border if and when the 48 hour restrictions are lifted. France’s 48 hour ban, introduced after the identification of a new Covid-19 strain in the UK, is set to end at 11pm tonight
It comes after Dover was yesterday plunged into a second night of chaos with up to 1,500 lorries now filling the motorway, side streets and laybys in the Kent town following the travel ban
Lorries arrive at Manston Airport in Kent while they await clearance to cross over to Europe. The site is part of the UK’s No Deal Brexit travel plan – which was enacted after the border was shut
Today Highways England warned the chaos around the Kent port could last for days. Hundreds of lorries are currently waiting to cross the English Channel when it reopens
Which countries have banned flights from the UK?
France imposed an inbound travel ban from 11pm last night
Spain will ban all entries from the UK except for Spanish nationals and residents from tomorrow
Germany, Poland, Sweden, Finland, Austria, Romania, Malta, Croatia, all suspended flights from the UK
Italy blocked all flights from the UK until 6 January
Bulgaria suspending flights from the UK until 31 January
Netherlands banned all passenger flights from the UK until 1 January
Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia banned flights from the UK until 31 January
Denmark suspended all flights from Britain for 48 hours as of this morning
Norway stopped planes from the UK for two days
Belgium halted flights and trains from the UK from midnight for at least 24 hours
Greece extended its quarantine period for travellers from the UK from three days to seven
Portugal says only Portuguese people and residents can arrive from the UK
In the Republic of Ireland, flights arriving from Britain are banned for 48 hours at least from midnight on Sunday and people have been asked not to ‘travel to Ireland, by air or sea’.
Turkey has temporarily banned all flights from the UK
Canada suspended entry of all flights from the UK for 72 hours
Russia is suspending flights from the UK for one week
India is suspending flights from the UK from midnight on Tuesday until 31 December
Hong Kong, Israel, Iran, Croatia, Morocco and Kuwait brought in restrictions on UK travel
In Latin America, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador and Peru all banned flights from the UK
Saudi Arabia has suspended all international flights for one week while Jordan suspended flights from the UK for two weeks.
Oman yesterday announced the closure of its land, sea and air borders for seven days from 22 December. During this time, it will not be possible to enter or leave Oman.
Pakistan has suspended entry to inbound travellers from the UK, or those who have been in the UK in the last 10 days. The ban will last from a seven day period from 23 December to 29 December.
Czech Republic says arrivals who have spent at least 24 hours in UK territory will need to isolate
The island of Mauritius has banned travel to anyone who has been in the UK in the previous 15 days. This decision will be reviewed on 31 December. Sudan also has a travel ban in place.
Government of Grenada has from 20 December suspended all air traffic between UK and Grenada and not allowing entry to anyone with UK travel history of previous 14 days.
‘We were very disappointed because of the way it was portrayed last night, as it was seeking to minimise the nature of the problem,’ he told the committee.
‘This is a very serious problem – whether you have moved trucks from one place to another, it is irrelevant. This is a very different level of supply chain disruption, of the like we have probably never experienced.
‘Many of the retailers are saying that we are up until Christmas, we will be fine until Christmas at least, but we must recover very fast to keep the shops fully stocked after Christmas. It’s a big worry.’
Retailers have called on shoppers not to panic buy, but have raised concerns that supply of some fresh produce, such as lettuce and broccoli, could be impacted by the disruption.
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium (BRC), told the BEIS committee: ‘The real issue we face is what happens in the next day or so.
‘If we do not see the empty trucks, which have already delivered to warehouses and stores, getting back over the channel, they will not be able to pick up the next consignment of fresh fruit, vegetables, salad vegetables.
‘What we’ve been told by members is that unless those trucks can start travelling again and go back to Spain and Portugal and other parts of Europe, we will problems with fresh produce from December 27.
‘What we need is for those trucks to move in the next 24 hours if we are to avoid seeing problems on our shelves.’
Mr Wright added that the disruption is also having a particular impact on food producers in the UK, warning that UK seafood could be destroyed if trucks continue to be halted.
‘There are dozens of lorries there with product that is going off. There is a huge hit here to Scottish seafood,’ he told MPs
‘All my members will tell you that the insurance policies they have will not cover the loss of goods due to circumstances like this.
‘If the Government was handing out train fares to go see Granny, they should compensate … those who through no fault of their own found themselves in this situation where millions of pounds of stock is going off as they sit in the queue.
‘We’ll be pressing them very hard to look at a compensation scheme.’
Home Secretary Priti Patel today said the Government was ‘working to get a resolution’ as talks continued with France on reopening full trade and transport across the Channel.
She told Sky News: ‘We’re working to get a resolution, I think that’s really important to put this into context.
‘It’s in both our interests, both countries to ensure that we have flow and of course there are European hauliers right now who want to be going home and quite frankly it’s in both our interests to carry on those discussions and negotiations and we will see what materialises today.’
Discussing the testing farce, she said: ‘Discussions about the type of testing will take place between the transport secretaries, both here and in Paris so I can’t speculate on the type of testing that will be used.
‘But it is quite clear, I mean we ask passengers to take tests before they get on planes, it is quite clear now that mass testing and testing is the way forward so we will find proactive and productive ways in which if we have to introduce testing to make sure that happens and I think that will provide assurance and security all around.’
Ms Patel initially refused to be drawn on the number of lorries currently waiting at the border. But she later told BBC Radio 4 that there were 650 lorries on the M20 and 873 at nearby Manston Airport.
The total figure could be as high as 1,500 lorries, some say, with lorries now parked along the seafront at Dover.
Highways England yesterday estimated the total number of lorries to be almost 1,000 on the M20 alone.
As the crossing crisis continued, British food experts urged shoppers not to panic ahead of Christmas, saying there will be ‘plenty of food’.
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Just to be clear, there’s certainly not a problem for Christmas.
‘There’s plenty of food in the supply chain and in the stores at the moment, so nobody needs to be worried about food for Christmas dinners – there’s plenty of food for everybody and we can all shop normally.’
But he warned there could be issues after Christmas, saying: ‘There is a problem potentially directly after Christmas and that is really in fresh produce, so we’re talking here about things like salad, vegetables, fresh fruit, of which the vast majority come from Europe at this time.
‘Our view is as long as it can be cleared up today, there’ll be minimal impact for consumers.
‘Remember the shops are shut on Christmas Day, which takes one day of buying out of the equation, but those lorries that are stuck in Kent, they do need to get back within the next day.’
Meanwhile, a the top French haulage union has stoked fears of a driver strike, with an official warning ‘no trucker wants to deliver’ to Britain because of the new strain of coronavirus.
Also across the Channel, Jean Marc Puissesseau, president of the Port of Calais, today backed plans for testing.
He told BBC Radio 4: ‘I think something should happen with this test, which should be put in force as soon as possible so they can come back. But in Calais it is very quiet.’
France yesterday indicated it will open up to lorries from Britain again, but demanded drivers register a negative test.
Mr Macron confirmed authorities could demand ‘PCR tests are presented as being negative upon the arrival on (French) territory.’
A PCR test can take two to three days to come back, suggesting drivers would be required to get tested in the UK before they leave for France.
It would also mean that people trying to get to France from Britain would need to present some form of certificate to get into the country. It is unclear what will happen if someone arrives at the border without proof of a negative test.
The French government has pledged to ‘resume movement’ as soon as possible, with the Port of Dover saying inbound lorries are now coming into the UK.
The Road Haulage Association said it was ‘anyone’s guess,’ how a programme of testing at the border could be rolled out.
Paul Mummery, spokesman for the RHA told MailOnline: ‘Until we can understand what that process looks like, it’s difficult to gauge whether freight can start running again.
‘This is something they will want to do very, very quickly, but what that looks like is anyone’s guess.’
Unite’s national officer for road transport, Adrian Jones, said: ‘Drivers are suffering a nightmare before Christmas because of cross channel gridlock.
‘Unite has major concerns that many of those stuck in the immediate delays do not have access to proper toilets, washing facilities, decent food or places to rest outside of their cabs.
‘Nor it is just their physical needs that are being compromised. Waiting for hours and hours, with no idea of how long delays will continue for, is a huge cause of stress for drivers, with many fearing they might not get home in time for Christmas.’