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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.  



Homecoming French expats relieved to escape Britain

Sam Cabral, a French expatriate living in Britain, expressed relief today as she stepped off a Eurostar train from London, becoming one of the first people to make the trip after a travel ban imposed over Covid-19 worries was eased.  

"I’m very happy to be home and actually I’m going to ... go and see my mum and dad, put on a mask and give them a hug,” she said on arrival at the Gare du Nord station in Paris.  

Another French expatriate arriving in Paris today, Albert Khayat, described the scramble to try to comply with the new rules.  

“I was trying to get out of London,” he said. “We got the news at 7pm [on Tuesday].” He said he was advised to get tested at the train station in London, which he did this morning before boarding.  

"The scandal is ... tests in Britain cost £160 pounds for each test," said Mr Khayat. "Not everyone has that luxury." 

Chiara Giordano23 December 2020 17:21

Heathrow boss pleads for pre-departure Covid tests to begin

The boss of Britain's busiest airport says the latest round of travel bans has “effectively stopped” international travel.

In a letter to the prime minister, Heathrow Airport chief executive John Holland-Kaye has demanded the unilateral introduction of a testing regime, with a PCR test 72 hours before departure and an additional rapid Lamp or antigen test at the airport.

Travel correspondent Simon Calder has more details below:

Heathrow boss pleads with Boris Johnson to begin pre-departure tests for travellers

Airport chief executive John Holland-Kaye says ‘international travel has effectively been stopped’

Chiara Giordano23 December 2020 17:36

Italy reopens air travel from UK for residents

Italy has reopened air travel from the UK, according to the Italian embassy in London.

Travellers must have a negative Covid test, be a resident of Italy and self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in Italy.

Chiara Giordano23 December 2020 17:51

First 20 lorries have entered Eurotunnel

Kent Council leader Roger Gough said the first 20 trucks, of more than 5,000 HGVs being held in the county, have now entered the Eurotunnel to make the crossing to France.

Mr Gough said tensions between police and drivers had calmed down but added the situation remained "quite fragile".

He said 100 lorries had 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.

Chiara Giordano23 December 2020 18:06

Archbishop of Canterbury condemns ‘unacceptable’ conditions in Kent

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishops of Rochester, Dover and Tonbridge have written a joint statement condemning the "unacceptable" conditions in Kent following the blockade of travel to France.

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."

Chiara Giordano23 December 2020 18:25

US Christmas holiday travel surges despite outbreak

Millions of Americans are travelling ahead of Christmas and New Year, despite pleas from public health experts that they stay home to avoid fuelling the coronavirus pandemic.  

More than 5 million people passed through the nation's airport security checkpoints between Friday and Tuesday, according to the Transportation Security Administration.  

That is down around 60 per cent from the same time last year. But it amounts to around a million passengers per day, or about what the US saw in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, when some Americans likewise disregarded warnings and ended up contributing to the surge in the US.  

Overall, the AAA projected that about 85 million people will travel between Wednesday and 3 January, most of them by car. That would be a drop of nearly a one-third from a year ago but still a big number in the middle of a pandemic. 

Chiara Giordano23 December 2020 18:40

Ryanair to cancel most UK-Europe flights up to 3 January

Tens of thousands of passengers booked on Ryanair flights to Europe up to early January are in line for a full refund after their flights were cancelled.

Until now, Europe’s biggest budget airline has appeared to be ready to operate most scheduled trips. But the carrier now says it will run only “a small number of flights” until 3 January.

Ryanair says these are primarily to support passengers who need to fly for essential reasons and to bring home British travellers stranded abroad.

Our travel correspondent Simon Calder has more details below:

Ryanair to cancel most UK-Europe flights up to 3 January

Passengers booked on grounded departures are entitled to refunds – of both legs, if only one flight is cancelled

Chiara Giordano23 December 2020 18:58

UK food producers face ‘black Christmas’

An industry boss has said food producers face a "black Christmas" with stocks perishing due to a backlog of lorries in Kent which is not being resolved quickly enough.

Freight began moving again this morning after France lifted a ban in inbound traffic from the UK.

But delays continued as thousands of drivers had to be tested for coronavirus before transporting their cargo across the Channel.

Read more:

UK food producers face ‘black Christmas’ as goods perish amid border gridlock

‘Many, many businesses are going to have a very difficult few days trying to work out if they continue,’ says Food and Drink Federation Scotland

Chiara Giordano23 December 2020 19:29

That’s the end of our live travel updates for today - join us again tomorrow for more rolling coverage.

Chiara Giordano23 December 2020 20:06

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