The British army announced on Friday that it had deployed more than 1,000 soldiers to test for Covid-19 the thousands of truckers stranded around the English port of Dover due to a new potentially more contagious strain of the new coronavirus.
After 48 hours of total closure, France has since Wednesday morning allowed the return of drivers stuck on the British side, on condition of presenting a negative Covid-19 test. Thousands of them were still waiting on Friday to be able to return home, some parked on the runway of an old airport, others directly on the highway.
Positive cases among stranded truckers
As of Friday afternoon, more than 10,000 tests had been carried out, including 24 positive, said Transport Minister Grant Shapps. “We are deploying 800 additional personnel to support increased screening capabilities,” the Defense Ministry announced on Twitter, adding that they are in addition to 300 soldiers already there.
“Although significant progress has been made, with hundreds of vehicles having left the UK, more screening is needed as new vehicles continue to arrive every hour,” the source added. The soldiers will also participate in the distribution of water and food for the stranded drivers, some since Sunday. France sent a team of 26 firefighters to help with the scouting, more than 1,000 meals and Red Cross volunteers.
The situation resolved on Saturday?
To allow a faster return to normal, the United Kingdom and France have agreed to exceptionally maintain cross-Channel, sea and rail traffic on Christmas Day. Ferry companies only embark vehicles in the Dover-Calais direction.
On Thursday alone, 1,000 heavy goods vehicles crossed from Dover to the French port of Calais and the movement was accelerating on Friday, said the deputy managing director of the company which operates the ports of Calais and Boulogne-sur- Mer, Benoît Rochet. “At this rate, the situation should be completely resolved on Saturday during the day,” he added. On the M20 motorway leading to Dover, drivers said they had advanced 11 kilometers in nineteen hours.
This crisis has put a stop to the supply chain in the United Kingdom, which is very dependent on cross-Channel traffic, raising fears of shortages of certain fresh products for lack of a rapid return to normal.