A travel ban from the UK to France, imposed to curb the spread of a new coronavirus variant, has been lifted, the two governments said on Tuesday, allowing thousands of stranded lorries to pass through the port of Dover.
The agreement foresees that those travelling for essential reasons, including hauliers, French citizens, and British citizens with French residency will be allowed into France, provided that they have a negative COVID-19 test less than 72 hours before departure.
On the UK side, rapid “lateral flow” tests will be used, which provide a result in around 30 minutes, despite France’s pressure for more accurate results through PCR tests, which could take, however, even 3 or 4 days to give a result, given that they require a lab.
“Good progress today and agreement with the French Government on borders. We will provide an update on hauliers later this evening, but hauliers must still NOT travel to Kent this evening,” UK Transport Minister Grant Shapps tweeted on Tuesday.
On Sunday, France announced it was closing its border with the UK to passengers and freight from the UK for 48 hours, over concerns about the new strain of the virus. The ban sparked fears of shortages over Christmas, as the port is an important gateway for goods entering and leaving the UK.
Ahead of a meeting of the EU27 ambassadors earlier this week, the European Commission urged member states to lift any travel restrictions affecting the UK to prevent disruptions in supply chains, stressing, however, that non-essential travel should be discouraged. It also recommended that transport staff in the EU, such as truck drivers, should be exempt from travel restrictions and mandatory testing.
The Netherlands and Belgium have also eased restrictions concerning the arrivals from the UK, provided that they have a negative PCR test result.