Thousands of international lorry drivers are spending Christmas Day in their cabs at the English Channel border amid continuing coronavirus disarray.
Some 1,100 soldiers have been deployed to Kent to help carry out coronavirus testing after French authorities agreed trucks could enter into the country if their drivers were found negative for COVID 19.
More than 700 trucks have been cleared for departure since the decision on Wednesday, but on Friday some 5,000 trucks remained parked up at Manston Airport, on a closed section of the M20, and in the town of Dover itself with the log jam now taking time to clear.
So miserable has the crisis become for some drivers that the Salvation Army has been distributing food parcels.
It all comes after France sealed its border on Sunday following the discovery of a fast-spreading COVID 19 variant in the south-east of England.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We need to get the situation in Kent, caused by the French Government’s sudden imposition of Covid restrictions, resolved as soon as possible.
He said that he had sent particular instructions to the army to take command of testing and HGV management operations in the county and that they aimed to get foreign hauliers home with their families as fast as they can.
He continued that he knows it’s been difficult for many drivers cooped up in their cabs at this special time of year, but he assured them that they were doing their utmost to get them home.
In a tweet on Christmas Day morning, the Ministry of Defence said that they were deploying a further 800 personnel to Kent, in addition to the 300 already there to support an increase in the testing capabilities to help alleviate the backlog of vehicles and ensure traffic can start to move at a closer to average rate through Dover.
The Department for Transport said all but three of the 2,367 coronavirus tests given to hauliers so far have been negative and it added that catering vans would supply hot food and drinks to stranded hauliers at Manston, with Kent County Council and volunteer groups providing refreshments to those stuck on the M20, although hauliers had earlier criticised the efforts after numerous drivers were given a single cereal bar.
A Port of Dover spokesperson confirmed that ferry services had run throughout the night on Christmas Eve and would continue on Christmas Day to help reduce congestion.
There were thousands of lorry drivers spending Christmas Day in Kent, but what about the poor soldiers that would now be spending Christmas Day apart from their families?
Although you could say that soldiers sign up for that and that it goes with the territory, but the truckers don’t! Although, at least the soldiers have a toilet and shower facilities.
But we can all agree that both situations stink and it’s not some kind of competition on who is worse off and then you realise how inept your own Government are when they have to send in the army to do the testing to make sure drivers that are leaving don’t take a highly contagious disease with them.
The lack of COVID testing when leaving and entering the United Kingdom is why we have ridiculous numbers of COVID and you can’t blame the French for wanting to protect their citizens, and it’s a disgrace that our Government doesn’t care enough about us to make COVID tests more stringent when entering the United Kingdom.