Coronavirus chaos: Thousands of truck drivers spend Christmas Day in their taxis on the canal border

Around 1,100 soldiers were dispatched to Kent to help run coronavirus tests after French authorities agreed that trucks could enter the country if their drivers were found negative for Covid-19.

Since that decision on Wednesday, more than 700 trucks have been cleared for departure.

However, there are around 5,000 trucks standing at Manston Airport, on an enclosed stretch of the M20 and in the city of Dover itself as of Friday, and the log jam now needs time to clear.

For some drivers, the situation has become so dire that the Salvation Army has distributed food packages.

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It all comes after France closed its border on Sunday after a rapidly spreading variant of Covid-19 was discovered in south-east England.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We need to resolve the situation in Kent caused by the French government’s sudden imposition of Covid restrictions as soon as possible.

“I sent special instructions to the Army today to take control of testing and truck management in the county. Our goal is to get foreign hauliers home with their families as soon as possible.

“I know that many drivers have found it difficult to sit in their taxis at this precious time of year, but I assure them that we will do our best to get them home.”

In a tweet on the morning of Christmas Day, the Department of Defense said, “We are sending another 800 workers to Kent today [in addition to 300 already there] Assisted increasing testing capabilities to clear vehicle congestion and ensure traffic through Dover can move closer to normal pace. “

The Department of Transportation said all but three of the 2,367 coronavirus tests issued to carriers have so far been negative.

It added that catering vans would provide hot food and drinks to stranded hauliers in Manston, with Kent County Council and volunteer groups providing refreshment for those stuck on the M20 – although hauliers previously criticized the effort after many drivers had one only ceral bar had been given.

A Port of Dover spokesman confirmed that ferry services will run throughout Christmas Eve night and will continue on Christmas Day to reduce congestion.

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