The first trucks boarded ferries again in Dover port on Thursday to cross the English Channel. This was a bigger step in clearing a freight traffic jam, more than 24 hours after France lifted a ban imposed in Britain over fears of a variant of the circulating virus.
Traffic remained slow on Thursday morning as truck drivers are required to provide evidence of a negative coronavirus test before boarding the ferries.
The abrupt border closure left thousands of trucks bound for Europe stuck in and around Dover, an important trade link with Europe due to the short crossing to France, and many waited in their rigs for days. But it could take days to clear the blockades, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said, according to the British Broadcasting Corporation. According to the BBC, there are around 6,000 trucks left in the area, 4,000 of which are parked at an airport that has been converted into a stopping area. Drivers appeared to be using traffic cones to write “help,” The Guardian reported.
Ferries carrying cargo and drivers to continental Europe will run on Christmas and Boxing Day, Shapps said, adding that the military and contact tracers were working with French firefighters who brought 10,000 tests to Dover for the Eliminate residue from the continent border closure. To address earlier concerns that some drivers might be trapped before the Christmas holidays, Shapps said the borders at the Eurotunnel in Dover and Calais in France would stay open until Christmas to help shippers and citizens get back home.
A spokeswoman for the port of Dover said the tests in the port and at the airport are now fully mobilized. She said around 100 cargo vehicles entered the port on Wednesday evening and many more should be added today as the port tries to clear the backlog as soon as possible.
A ferry company, P&O Ferries, said Thursday morning that the area was “heavily blocked”, adding that a road to the port was still blocked, but the first cargo convoys had been released from a stopping area in Manston, England . during the night. They added that authorities were working to improve testing facilities and that ferries should depart. Officials have warned truck drivers who are not yet in the Dover area to avoid the area.
Several organizations, including the UK Department of the Salvation Army and Khalsa Aid, said they prepared hundreds of packaged meals to feed stranded truck drivers.
Ravinder Singh, executive director of Khalsa Aid, a non-governmental organization charged with providing humanitarian aid in disaster areas, has distributed meals to stranded truck drivers. He said many were anxious to return home and ask when they would get a test.
“It’s like a horror movie,” he said. “We just want them to go home to their families for Christmas.”
Khalsa Aid has already distributed 1,800 meals since Monday and plans to distribute a further 3,500 on Thursday – many of them to people who would otherwise celebrate Christmas Eve with their families. “Many of them will not make it tonight,” said Mr Singh.
In other developments around the world:
Austria The ski slopes were allowed to be opened on Thursday, but all skiers aged 14 and over had to wear respirators in public areas and when driving in gondolas. Hotels, restaurants and bars will remain closed. Huts on the ski slope are not allowed to sell food or drinks, and the lifts are only allowed to operate at half capacity. Skiing is a national pastime in Austria where children learn to ski as soon as they can walk and professional skiers become national heroes. Since the elevators are only open to Austrians and the operators have already recorded losses in a year in which tourism has declined by more than a third, not all areas will be open. From Thursday, Austria will loosen the lockdown for the Christmas holidays, lift the night curfew and allow up to 10 people from 10 different households to meet. On Saturday, the restrictions will be tightened again until mid-January. The country of 8.8 million people recorded 2,131 new cases of infection on Thursday.
China will suspend direct flights to and from the UK indefinitely due to concerns about the infectious variant that is widespread there, a State Department spokesman said Thursday. China has banned non-resident travelers from Belgium, the UK, France, India and the Philippines since November, but kept its borders open to Chinese nationals, including students studying in those countries.
Prime Minister Ana Brnabic of Serbia Reuters reported that he received the country’s first Covid-19 vaccine on Thursday, starting a mass vaccination campaign. Around 4,875 doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine were flown in on Tuesday. This made Serbia the first Balkan nation to receive shots. Ms. Brnabic said the country is also awaiting shipments of China’s Sinopharm vaccine and Russia’s Sputnik V. She said President Aleksandar Vucic would most likely receive the Sinopharm vaccine. “We both agreed that the two of us would be shooting from different producers,” she told reporters.
European Union The member states should start vaccinations on Sunday. in the France, where the The National Health Agency approved the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. The authorities have ordered about 200 million cans and have outlined a three-phase vaccination strategy, starting with retirement homes and care facilities in hospitals. Spain The first Covid-19 vaccination is due to take place on Sunday in a nursing home in downtown Guadalajara. A warehouse in this city will be storing doses of Pfizer’s vaccine starting Saturday.
Melissa Eddy, Tiffany May, Raphael Minder, Constant Méheut and Eshe Nelson contributed to the coverage.