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As it happenedended1608756591

UK travel ban: Germans airlift food to Yorkshire as Dover blockage causes ‘severe transport delays’

Latest developments as coronavirus disruption felt around the world

Tom Batchelor
Wednesday 23 December 2020 20:49 GMT
Truck driver criticises government's handling of France border crisis

Hauliers are being urged to avoid Kent despite the reopening of the French border, as protesting lorry drivers closed a road and clashed with police after tempers flared over delays in crossing the Channel just two days before Christmas.  

One man was arrested for obstructing a highway in Dover on Wednesday, while two others were later seen being led away in handcuffs following a scuffle as tensions began to flare once again between hauliers and police officers at the Kent port.  

The first passengers arrived in France from the UK in the early hours of Wednesday as part of a deal to restore travel between the two countries after a wave of bans left travellers stranded and supply lines severed.  

More than 6,000 HGVs are being held in Kent, with drivers being tested for Covid-19 before they are allowed into France.

There were 3,750 vehicles at a lorry holding facility in Manston as of 6.15pm on Wednesday, along with 632 HGVs on the M20 as part of Operation Stack and 1,690 in Operation Brock, the Department for Transport (DfT) said.

As a mass testing programme got underway on Wednesday, the first 20 trucks entered the Eurotunnel to make the crossing by early evening. 

However transport secretary Grant Shapps said there continued to be "severe delays" and communities secretary Robert Jenrick warned it could take a "few days" to clear the backlog of lorries waiting to cross into France, despite the travel restrictions being eased.  

Meanwhile, a Lufthansa Boeing 777 cargo plane touched down at Doncaster-Sheffield airport this afternoon with lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli and citrus fruit destined for major supermarkets.  



Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s rolling coverage of the travel disruption triggered by the discovery of a new variant of Covid-19 in England.

Tom Batchelor23 December 2020 07:49

French border reopens after mass testing agreement

French authorities announced late last night that journeys from the UK will be allowed to resume on Wednesday after the coronavirus ban was lifted, but those seeking to travel must have a negative test result.

It is thought that UK authorities will use rapid lateral flow tests to test lorry drivers to help get freight moving again.

In a press release, the French foreign affairs ministry said that from 11pm UK time (midnight in France) 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".

The statement said that a negative test result, taken less than 72 hours before the journey, is required and this can be either a "PCR or antigen test" sensitive to the new variant.

But entry will only be granted to French and EU residents, British or third-party nationals who normally live in France or the EU, as well as some other groups.

French transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebarri said planes, boats and Eurostar trains would resume service on Wednesday morning.

"French nationals, people living in France and those with a legitimate reason will have to be carrying a negative test," he said.

Here is the story: 

Travel to France will resume for EU nationals with negative Covid tests

Agreement reached after 48 hours of disruption at Dover leaves thousands of lorries queuing

Tom Batchelor23 December 2020 07:56

‘4,000 lorries’ in Kent backlog

Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick has claimed around 4,000 lorries may be caught up in the Kent backlog.

But the Road Haulage Association said between 8,000 and 10,000 delayed lorries are now in Kent and its surrounding areas.

Mr Jenrick told Sky News it would take "a few days" to test all the drivers before they can travel to France.

"I hope that this morning you will see people and HGVs crossing the Channel," he said.

The communities secretary said as of 7pm on Tuesday night there were just under 3,000 lorries at the disused airfield site at Manston, Kent.

Between 7-800 were part of Operation Stack on the M20, he said but "other HGVs and smaller vehicles are parked elsewhere in Kent".

Tom Batchelor23 December 2020 08:00

Testing means border delays, warns lorry group

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).

Rapid lateral flow tests, which can give results in about 30 minutes, will be used to test HGV drivers

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 industry is facing further uncertainty because of the lack of a post-Brexit trade deal with just days to go until the transition period ends.

RHA members voted by 61 per cent to 30 per cent in favour of leaving the EU when surveyed in 2016 in the weeks before the Brexit referendum.

Tom Batchelor23 December 2020 08:04

Tony Blair says Covid ‘health passport only way the world will function’

Tony Blair has said the public should expect to use a “health passport” in the future to reduce the need for national lockdowns.

The former prime minister, writing for The Independent, said: "Prepare for a form of health passport now. I know all the objections, but it will happen.

“It’s the only way the world will function and for lockdowns to no longer be the sole course of action.” 

Tony Blair: We are in a race against time – we must change our vaccine policy now

Vaccine strategy should be changed – to get a single shot to as many people as possible to slow the spread of coronavirus

The idea of so-called immunity passports has been floated before as a way to allow people thought to be at a lower risk of catching or spreading the virus to return to work and travel. 

A handful of airlines have signed up for a scheme that would serve a similar purpose. However there are concerns about how such a programme could be rolled out fairly.

Tom Batchelor23 December 2020 08:15

Belgium eases travel ban

Some flights will resume from the UK to Belgium on Wednesday for Belgian travellers seeking to return home.

Belgium lifted its blanket ban on passenger travel from the UK at midnight on Tuesday to allow its nationals or people who live in Belgium to return home. 

Passengers will have to fill in a travel locator form and go into seven-day quarantine. 

Transit passengers from the UK en route to a non-EU country will also be allowed as of Wednesday to pass through, but not to stay in Belgium.

Tom Batchelor23 December 2020 08:19

Germany tightens restrictions on UK arrivals

Just as Belgium was loosening the rules, overnight on Tuesday Germany implemented a transport ban for arrivals from the UK and South Africa coming by train, bus or boat. The restriction will be in force until 6 January.

On Monday, Berlin banned flights from the UK and South Africa from landing in its territory until the end of the year.

Tom Batchelor23 December 2020 08:23

The Netherlands lifts ban for arrivals with negative test

The Netherlands has followed France in lifting travel restrictions on passengers from the UK, provided they return a negative test result within 72 hours of departure.

The Dutch government said: "Anyone who does not have a negative test declaration will be denied boarding. This also applies to Dutch and EU citizens returning from the United Kingdom or South Africa.

 “In addition, the government has decided to introduce a further requirement as soon as possible which will make the negative PCR test declaration mandatory for all passengers – including Dutch and EU nationals – entering the Netherlands from abroad.”

Tom Batchelor23 December 2020 08:32

Denmark extends entry ban to 3 January

The Danish government has extended a ban on flights from the UK to Denmark, which was due to expire this morning, until midnight between 24 and 25 December.

An entry ban for foreigners who do not reside in Denmark will continue to be enforced from Christmas Day until 3 January, the Danish embassy in London said. 

Tom Batchelor23 December 2020 08:38

Sikh volunteers source meals for lorry drivers

A group of Sikh volunteers and a local football club sourced hundreds of meals for lorry drivers stuck in Kent on Tuesday night.

Volunteers from Khalsa Aid, from Maidenhead, Berkshire, travelled over 80 miles to help provide more than 800 meals to the truckers - with some of the group's Langar Aid members travelling more than 150 miles from Coventry.

Fellow Sikhs from Guru Nanak Temple, a gurdwara in Gravesend, helped to cook the meals before the volunteers were given a Kent Police escort along the M20 to deliver them.

Tom Batchelor23 December 2020 08:41

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