Thousands of lorry drivers spending Christmas Day in cabs at English Channel border
Vehicles queue to move into the departures boarding area as COVID-19 tests are carried out at the Port of Dover in Kent, where thousands are waiting to resume their journey across The Channel after the borders with France reopened, on December 24, 2020. (Photo by AP)
Thousands of international lorry drivers are spending Christmas Day in their vehicles at the English Channel border in the United Kingdom despite progress being made to return hauliers to their home countries amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Around 1,100 military personnel have been deployed to Kent in an attempt to help carry out coronavirus testing after French authorities, after their initial ban on entry, agreed that trucks could only enter the country if drivers tested negative for Covid-19.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said more than 10,000 tests had been done, adding that out of these lorry drivers who had been tested, 24 were positive for the contagious disease.
Traffic was moving smoothly through the port on Friday morning, with French firefighters drafted in to help the military test drivers for coronavirus.
The British government said catering vans were providing hot food and drinks to stranded hauliers at Manston, with Kent Council and volunteer groups providing refreshments to those stuck on the M20.
However, so miserable has the situation become for some drivers that the Salvation Army has been distributing food parcels.
More than 700 trucks have been cleared for departure since France reopened its border on Wednesday – and a chorus of beeping horns sounded at Dover on Christmas Eve as those at the front of the queue celebrated finally being able to leave.
However, approximately 5,000 remain unable to get home yet, despite some progress made in testing drivers holed up in their vehicles at nearby Manston Airport, on a closed section of the M20, and in the town of Dover itself.
Some have already spent nearly a week stranded due to the diplomatic impasse.
In a tweet on Christmas Day morning, the Ministry of Defence said: “We are deploying a further 800 personnel to Kent today [in addition to 300 already therehttps://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/12/22/641309/UK-France-Border-Closed-Army-Intervention-Propaganda“>
More than 300 soldiers will take charge of testing and lorry marshalling to clear the backlog.
The Government said catering vans would provide complimentary hot food and drinks to stranded hauliers at Manston, with Kent Council and volunteer groups providing refreshments to those stuck on the M20.
There are more than 250 toilets at Manston, with a further 32 portable toilets added to existing facilities already along the M20.
A Port of Dover spokesperson confirmed that ferry services had run throughout the night on Christmas Eve and would continue on Christmas Day to help ease congestion.
Traffic was moving more quickly at the Eurotunnel, with around 2,000 lorries expected to depart on Thursday.
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