Scots testing plan to ease lorry delays in Kent
Lorries stacked up at Dover
Lorry drivers were still facing frustrating delays crossing to France today as medics and army personnel began the slow process of testing for coronavirus.
The Scottish government has called for drivers moving perishable goods such as seafood and salmon to be prioritised.
There is also a call for testing facilities for drivers in Scotland to reduce demand in the South East and to fast-track lorries at English ports.
It would also avoid wasted journeys if a driver arrived in Kent only to be prevented from crossing to France after giving a positive test.
The UK-France agreement that lifts the travel ban imposed by the French on Sunday requires anyone travelling to France to have tested negative for Covid.
It means using controversial lateral flow tests, which are able to turn around results in under an hour but have had their effectiveness questioned.
Until 6 January, only lorry drivers and French and EU citizens or residents who have an essential reason to travel, and who show a negative test result less than 72 hours old will be allowed into France.
Mobile testing units have been set up at the disused Manston Airport, where hundreds of lorries have been parked.
Up to 150 soldiers are helping carry out tests in a bid to help clear a reported 10,000 lorries now converged on Kent.
However, there were reports that only 200 tests an hour were being carried out, meaning it could take days to clear the backlog of freight vehicles queuing on the M20 and at the airport.
Many drivers expected to be confined to their cabs on Christmas Day.
France had insisted on a more reliable PCR test, but it can take four days from ordering to receiving the result.
Lorries parked at Manston
There were scuffles this morning involving lorry drivers and police as tempers flared over delays and a lack of essential facilities such as toilets and food outlets.
The European Union ordered EU countries to lift their bans on Britain to reduce the chaos developing around the Kent coast. It said flight and train bans should be discontinued given the need to ensure essential travel and avoid supply chain disruptions.
The Netherlands announced it would allow UK arrivals again, as long as they have a recent negative result.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier denied that there will be shortages in the supermarkets, despite warnings by Tesco and Sainsbury’s that after Christmas shelves may be short of salads and vegetable products which are largely imported at this time of year.
The British Retail Consortium, said while supplies were plentiful for Christmas there could be problems in store shortly afterwards.
James Withers: ‘pre-Christmas sales ruined’ (pic: Terry Murden)
It said fresh produce such as salad, vegetables and fruit including raspberries and strawberries could be in short supply.
James Withers, CEO of Scotland Food and Drink, warned that many food companies faced massive losses as insurance firms would not pay out on delays.
“There has been a very small amount of seafood that was caught in the backlog that has managed to switch to being unaccompanied freight and get to France,” he said.
“For some of our shellfish exporters, the pre-Christmas sales have now been ruined. It looks like mission impossible to get products to the big markets in Spain which are held tomorrow.
“That is an irrecoverable loss of income and I fear about this being a fatal blow to some of the smaller businesses after the horrendous year they have already had.
“Based on discussions with the insurance industry we have had, we are not aware of any companies yet who will be able to claim for losses due to delays, despite some suggestions otherwise from UK Ministers yesterday.