(Update: adds info on clashes between drivers and police in Dover)
Paris, Dec 23 (efe-epa).- Trucks and other commercial vehicles that had been blocked at the English port of Dover for over 48 hours were allowed to cross the Channel again after the border was reopened at midnight on Wednesday.
France had temporarily closed the border for 48 hours on Sunday night to both passenger and freight traffic after a new, highly infectious strain of coronavirus was detected in southern England last week, quickly causing massive queues of heavy goods vehicles on the motorway near Dover.
Truck drivers, many of whom had spent three nights stranded in their vehicles, will now be allowed to cross the Channel if they present a negative coronavirus test.
Special antigen testing sites were being set up on the British side, a statement by the French transport ministry said, “so that as many drivers as possible can return to spend the Christmas holidays with their families. The French and British authorities are fully mobilized to achieve this.”
The tests “limit the risks of the COVID-19 variant spreading, while taking into account the distinctive characteristics of lorry drivers’ activity.”
Truck drivers will thus be able to obtain the result quickly and embark for France, provided the test is negative.
French transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said: “I welcome the methods we’ve been able to agree with the British authorities in record time, and I thank the British Government (…) for their pragmatism in resolving the difficulties encountered.
The special nature of lorry drivers’ jobs was taken into account, to optimize working conditions and the free flow of trade while respecting the health priorities.”
British transport minister Grant Shapps said: “I am pleased that we have made this important progress with our French counterparts this evening.