Thursday, October 28

Traffic between France and the UK slowly resumes after closure due to new virus strain | International

Trucks and professional vehicles began to cross the English Channel in the early hours of this Wednesday, after a 48-hour blockade in the English port of Dover, with the reopening last midnight of the borders between the United Kingdom and France. The tension of many drivers trapped on the island for almost three days has led to the first clashes with the police at the port facilities, while irritation grows among the thousands of carriers who remain detained at Manston airport. Paris had blocked the passage on Sunday to stop the spread of the new strain of coronavirus detected in British territory. It will be a slow outcome of a situation that in the last hours of Tuesday had already become chaotic. The border closure disrupted freight routes between the country and the EU, as well as thousands of drivers stranded in the south-east of the UK, just days before Christmas.

Compared to the initial forecasts of the British authorities that around 2,500 trucks could accumulate, in the end there have turned out to be about 4,000 waiting their turn, according to the British Government, or about 8,000, just double, according to the Association of Carriers by highway. The divergence is due to the fact that many vehicles have parked throughout Kent, but without entering the urgently prepared parking areas. “Here protests have increased and people are nervous. They have already cut the access road to the airport, after continuing to load trucks all night. They have doubled the number of parked vehicles ”, Jesús Martínez, a driver from Murcia told EL PAÍS this Wednesday morning, who has been trapped for several days in the collapse of Manston airport, near Kent, and converted into a parking lot provisional. “From noon they have started to go through the booths, to do a mouth and nose test. If after half an hour the result is negative, they can register it on a web page and go to the port, ”explains Martínez.

Daniel Mihaylov, 30, a Bulgarian living in Spain, has also been trapped in the same labyrinth for almost three days. He works for Grupo Mazo, from Alcira (Valencia). He unloaded a shipment of oranges and tangerines near London early Sunday. “I was less than a mile from the Port of Dover, and I had already spoken to customs and police. Suddenly they ordered me to divert to Manston airport, and they gave me a code with which someone would supposedly test me for the virus. Until now ”, he recounts with resignation. Up to 40 rows of trucks on a five kilometer long track. Only the rain, which appears from time to time, calms the spirits of many drivers who have abandoned their vehicles and have begun to block the surrounding road. “When you talk to the police, they try to convince us that they are on our side, and that the French are to blame, who do not let us out,” says Daniel, convinced that the responsibilities of the chaos are rather distributed.

At least until next January 6, only truck drivers and French and EU citizens or residents with an essential reason to travel who show a negative result in the covid-19 test with less than 72 will be able to enter France hours old. The British army has been deployed to collaborate in carrying out the tests, although the British Housing Minister, Robert Jenrick, acknowledged on the Sky News chain that the traffic jam will continue for several days.

The first vehicles arrived at the French port of Calais around 3:30 in the morning, when the trucks began to leave the ferry that left Dover after midnight. According to the regional newspaper The voice of the North, the authorities also observed the passing of some cars throughout the early morning. During the night there were about 3,000 trucks waiting to cross the canal by ferry.

In turn, train traffic on the Eurotunnel for passengers started shortly after midnight. The warehouses for trucks did not begin to leave until seven in the morning, local time, so for the moment the traffic on the French side is fluid, although the regional authorities do not rule out later activating management plans to facilitate circulation in the roads. Workers who must cross the border can resort to rapid antigen tests instead of PCRs. The French authorities could also make random samples of the merchandise.

Brussels asked this Tuesday that the bans adopted by several countries on flights from British territory be lifted. The community body recommends limiting non-essential trips to or from the island, but recalls that Member States cannot deny entry to EU citizens in a generalized way (the British are until December 31) and Nor can generalized suspensions of air or rail transport be adopted.

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