(Update: adds European Commission statements)
London, Dec 22 (efe-epa).- Hundreds of truck drivers spent a second night in their vehicles in the southeastern English county of Kent waiting for France to reopen the Channel Tunnel border, which was closed Sunday because of the coronavirus crisis.
The British government estimated on Tuesday that 945 trucks were stranded near the port of Dover, although British media reports estimate that total to be significantly higher.
French authorities on Sunday night closed the border with the United Kingdom after confirming the detection of a new mutation of the coronavirus, which is highly contagious.
A range of other countries, both in the EU and globally, have suspended all flights with the British territory as a precautionary measure.
The European Commission appealed to the EU’s member states on Tuesday afternoon to lift the bans on UK travel with urgency, particularly for essential travel and goods, and to issue a coordinated, unified response to the latest developments in the pandemic.
The Commission noted the importance of rapidly responding to the threat of the new viral strain and reiterated that “all non-essential travel to and from the UK should be discouraged”, but said “essential travel and transit of passengers should be facilitated.”
“Flight and train bans should be discontinued given the need to ensure essential travel and avoid supply chain disruptions,” the statement said.
“Blanket travel bans should not prevent thousands of EU and UK citizens from returning to their homes,” the Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, said.
Speaking to the BBC on Tuesday morning, the managing director of the British Association of Road Transporters (RHA), Rod McKenzie, said that the truckers’ “morale was very poor” after having to spend “a second night parked up somewhere, possibly on the motorway, possibly somewhere else, trying to cross the channel. Many of them are European drivers trying to get home for Christmas.”