Freight from Britain began arriving in France by rail and ferry on Wednesday, ending 48-hours of transport chaos in the UK. France, along with other countries, rushed to cut travel links on Sunday after a new coronavirus variant was discovered in the UK. This left around 2,800 trucks stranded in southern England at short notice. French Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebarri and British counterpart Grant Shapps announced the deal to reopen the borders late on Tuesday.
French citizens, British nationals living in France and those traveling for urgent reasons are now permitted to cross the border. They will need to carry a valid negative coronavirus test result taken within 72 hours before departure. Non-essential travelers have been advised to stay put.
Several ferries arrived in France on Wednesday morning. Air travel, and Eurostar trains, which travel under the English Channel, are also set to resume service on Wednesday. But it is expected to take time to clear the backlog of drivers. A British minister said the military would assist with testing and drivers will take the lateral flow COVID-19 test in a bid to speed up results. However, scuffles broke out between a small number of police officers and frustrated drivers. Others honked their horns in unison during the night in protest. The mostly European drivers, many stranded with their trucks and without access to hot food or bathroom facilities, have grown increasingly angry as it became clear they may not arrive home in time for Christmas with their families.
While France has reopened the border, travel between the UK and many other countries including Germany, remains banned. According to the World Health Organization, the transmission of this new variant is 40 to 70% higher. Scientists claim the mutation was spotted due to the UK’s high levels of virus genetic sequencing.