Coronavirus news: UK’s Dover backlog easing as rapid Covid tests clear 4,500 lorries | UK | News (Reports)

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It came after ferry services between Dover and Calais were allowed to resume on Wednesday. France closed the border between itself and the UK late last week as fears mounted of a new strain of coronavirus identified in England.

It meant many freight drivers had to spend Christmas in designated lorry backlog sites in Kent as they awaited negative tests in order to cross.

One site at Manston Airport was at capacity with around 4,000 lorries spaced out on what used to be runways, ITV reported on Christmas morning.

Other queues stretched up sections of the M20 motorway which had closed to accommodate them.

On Friday night, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said teams had tested more than 10,000 of the lorry drivers for Covid-19, meaning thousands were finally able to cross over to the continent.

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He said on Twitter: “Thanks to all the hauliers in Kent for their patience and to everyone on the ground working tirelessly to help after the French border was suddenly closed.

“Over 10,000 tests have taken place and over 4,500 HGVs are back over the Channel.”

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Germany’s ambassador to the UK Andreas Michaelis said in the morning that some German drivers had already returned home, but added “others remain sadly stuck”.

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Ferry services are expected to continue running through Boxing Day to ensure remaining hauliers can cross.

Meanwhile international efforts helped ensure testing was carried out and resources distributed to the waiting drivers.

Mr Shapps took to Twitter to thank French firefighting teams for their “great cooperation” with NHS Test and Trace as well as the UK’s “brilliant” military.

In addition, the Polish embassy in the UK said it had sent members of the country’s Territorial Defence Force to assist with testing and food packs.

The Government had initially deployed 300 soldiers this past week to help provide support – this was soon boosted to 1,100.

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The military personnel helped check lorries and documents as they entered Dover’s port.

Police had also been deployed to patrol the lorry queues, which at points led to confrontations and arrests.

Neil Mennie, Chairman of the Kent Police Federation, told ITV News he acknowledged the drivers’ frustrations and said most of them had been “patient and very, very reasonable”.

However, he added: “Unfortunately one or two have decided to turn their anger towards the police; which of course our colleagues just won’t tolerate and indeed some arrests have been made.

“That is disappointing but the vast majority are being patient, and we respect them for their patience.”

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