Amid fears over new coronavirus strain, France allows UK passengers to be transported

Goods and passengers from the UK began arriving on French shores on Wednesday, after a two-day blockade imposed due to a new variant of the coronavirus that had isolated Britain and raised fears of food shortages. But officials warned that the delay would take days to resolve.

An agreement reached the day before to allow trucks and passengers with a negative virus test to cross the Channel in France has brought some relief, but many have warned that chaos is a precursor to what Britain could face if not reaches a trade agreement with the European Union before leaving the bloc’s economic embrace on 31 December.


Associated Press reporters saw a British ferry bound for the French port of Calais before dawn on Wednesday, and rail operator Eurotunnel said trains carrying goods and car passengers were allowed to cross the mainland again under the Canal English. But the blockade persisted and temperaments exploded in the English port of Dover, where truckers and stranded passengers were desperate to get home for Christmas. Some truck drivers could be seen arguing with the police.

Nations around the world began banning people in the UK over the weekend after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that scientists had said a new version of the virus that was plaguing London and south-east England could be more contagious. The announcement added to anxieties at a time when Europe has been plagued by rising virus infections and deaths.

Some European countries on Wednesday relaxed restrictions on Britain, although many remain in place. However, France’s ban on transporting goods was the one that caused the most alarm, as the UK relies heavily on its mainland trade links with the mainland for food, especially fruit and vegetables. fresh vegetables.

Fears of food shortages have added to an already poor Christmas preparation in the UK, where authorities have reduced or canceled plans to ease holiday restrictions as daily virus infections increase and many hospitals are nearing capacity. . Many Britons were already preparing for disruptions if Britain and the EU could not reach an agreement on a new trade agreement until the country left the bloc’s single market and customs union without tariffs in just one week.

Truckers quarrel with police detaining them at the entrance to Dover Harbor in Kent, England, on Wednesday, December 23, 2020. (Steve Parsons / PA via AP)

Truckers quarrel with police detaining them at the entrance to Dover Harbor in Kent, England, on Wednesday, December 23, 2020. (Steve Parsons / PA via AP)

The French authorities insisted that the blockade was based on scientific concerns and not on politics, but some could not help but notice that they could have taken a look at what Britain can expect next year.

Clement Beaune, the French Minister for European Affairs, told BFM during a discussion on the Brexit talks that, when it comes to trade, “the British side is much more dependent on Europe than the other way around”.

People arriving from the UK are required to have a virus test capable of detecting the new variant, according to an agreement reached late last night after 48 hours of frantic negotiations between the French, British and EU authorities.

British Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said around 4,000 trucks could wait in Kent County to cross the Channel and urged other trucks not to go there until the backlog is removed. It will take “a few days” to test all drivers before they can travel to France, he said.

“Whatever the number, whether it’s 4,000 or more, it’s a significant number to solve,” Jenrick said.

Soldiers and contact locators were deployed in the area to administer COVID-19 tests. The bedding provoked tensions and protests in Dover. A truck driver from Poland complained about the lack of toilet or food facilities in the port.

Ben Richtzenhaim, who drove overnight from Scotland hoping to reach Europe by car, got stuck in a huge line, despite giving negative results.

“Looking around, it doesn’t look like much progress is being made here,” he said. “People are still not moving away and the authorities are not doing anything either. So it is a real stalemate.”

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The Netherlands, Belgium and Bulgaria relaxed travel restrictions on Britain on Wednesday, but dozens of other countries continue to block travel. Japan has announced that it will reinstate an entry ban for most newcomers to the country.

Eurostar passenger train traffic also resumed from the UK to the mainland, but only for citizens from Europe’s borderless area, EU-resident British citizens and those with a special reason to come temporarily, such as truckers.