Lorry driver fears he will be stuck in UK for Christmas as stranded truckers call for mass testing

A stranded lorry driver waiting to get back into France following the country’s UK travel ban has said he has no idea if he will be able to get back to his family for Christmas.

The lorry driver, one of the hundreds stuck at Dover after Emmanuel Macron shut the border on Sunday, says officials need to arrange a Covid testing programme now if European hauliers are to make it home for Christmas Eve. 

Emergency talks are taking place today in a bid to end the cross-Channel travel ban, with the French president expected to announce plans to reopen the border later today.

As many as 1,500 lorries are thought to be waiting to cross the border when restrictions are lifted. France’s 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.  

But with talks ongoing today over a possible border Covid testing scheme, and warnings from Highways England that the delays could last several days, some lorry drivers fear the prospect of missing Christmas with their families.

President Macron has also been accused of abandoning foreign truckers over his insistence on the use of a slower PCR test – which can take up to three days to return a result.

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.’

Emergency talks are ongoing this morning 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

Emergency talks are ongoing this morning 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

Emergency talks are ongoing this morning 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

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. Pictured: Polish truck driver Marcin Pastok

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. Pictured: Polish truck driver Marcin Pastok

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. Pictured: Polish truck driver Marcin Pastok

But with talks ongoing today over a possible border testing scheme, some lorry drivers fear missing the prospect of missing Christmas with their families

But with talks ongoing today over a possible border testing scheme, some lorry drivers fear missing the prospect of missing Christmas with their families

But with talks ongoing today over a possible border testing scheme, some lorry drivers fear missing the prospect of missing Christmas with their families

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.’ 

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

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

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

Another among the queues was French apple grower Marie Noelle, 63, who was desperate to return home to Tours for her mother’s funeral.

Paulette Poujet died aged 87 on Saturday after an aggressive four month battle with severe Alzheimers.

Ms Noelle cried: ‘Macron, merde! Let me come home,’ at Port officials bound by the French President’s orders.

She 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.’

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.

‘I was 66 yesterday and spent my birthday on the road and I’m not planning to do the same at Christmas,’ he said.

‘I haven’t missed a Christmas at home for 45 years so I will be there even if I have to get a boat.’

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

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

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

Trucks are parked lining the streets in Dover, whilst the Port remains closed, in Kent

Trucks are parked lining the streets in Dover, whilst the Port remains closed, in Kent

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

PCR vs Lateral flow: More chaos as Britain 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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‘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,’ he said.

‘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.’

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 this morning in a bid to end the cross-Channel blockage, with Emmanuel Macron expected to announce his plan to end the travel ban later today.

It comes after 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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘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.

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. 

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‘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.’

Link hienalouca.com

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