Cross-channel travel slowly resumes as France, Britain agree on Covid testing

·2-min read

Freight and some personal travellers have begun arriving on French shores from Britain after France relaxed a 48-hour blockade over a new and potentially extra-virulent strain of the coronavirus was detected in the UK.

Ferries carrying lorries from the British port in Dover began to arrive early Wednesday in Calais in northern France for the first time since Sunday as some road and rail traffic resumed in the Eurotunnel under the English Channel.

An agreement between French, British and European Union officials late Tuesday means hauliers, French citizens and residents of France will be able to enter the country if they carried recent negative Covid-19 tests.

While dozens of countries imposed restrictions on travel from the UK over the strain, France’s ban disrupted one of Europe’s most important trade routes, raising fears of food and supply shortages over the holiday season.

The partial easing of restrictions obliges those who are eligible to travel to be tested before entering the port in Dover. Officials said it would take time to test drivers and clear the backlog of traffic.

Lorry drivers scuffle with police

Under the arrangement, drivers will first take a lateral flow antigen test for Covid-19. Anyone who tests positive will then take a more comprehensive PCR test, which takes longer to secure a result. Anyone testing positive to that will be given a hotel room to isolate.

Many of the mostly European drivers, stranded with their trucks since Sunday without access to warm food or bathroom facilities, became angry when they realised the protocol meant they may not get home in time for Christmas with their families.

Drivers honked horns and flashed lights to vent frustration over the blockade. Some scuffled with police forces in Dover to vent frustration over the long waits and uncertainty.

Many lorry drivers were in the UK to deliver goods to companies stockpiling supplies before Britain fully leaves the European Union at the year’s end, at which point a full customs border was slated to come into force.

European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune said there was no risk of shortages of product in France following the recent disturbances to supply chains.

(with newswires)