An agreement to reopen the UK-French border to allow accompanied freight services and some passenger services to resume between the two countries has been reached.
Rail, air and sea services resume this morning (December 23), with all people travelling from the UK into France required to show proof of a negative Coronavirus test taken within the previous 72 hours.
It means HGV drivers currently parked up at Manston airport and on routes to Dover will finally be able to continue their journey if their test proves negative. It is understood drivers with a positive test will have to isolate in hotel accommodation.
The protocol agreed with the French Government will be reviewed on December 31, but could run until January 6. All lorry drivers, irrespective of nationality, will require a lateral flow test.
This can detect the new strain of COVID-19 and provide results in around 30 minutes, rather than the 24 hours required after a PCR test.
The French government will also carry out sample testing on incoming freight to the UK.
The UK government continues to strongly urge hauliers not to travel to Kent until further notice, while a mass testing programme for HGV drivers gets underway to alleviate congestion at ports.
Operation Stack remains in force along the M20 while lorry drivers in Kent are continuing to be directed to the Manston holding facility. Drivers have access to food and welfare facilities.
There are currently just over 2,000 vehicles parked at the Manston airport site.
Under the agreement, admittance into France will only be granted to those travelling for urgent reasons – including hauliers – French citizens, and British citizens with French residency.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “I am pleased that we have made this important progress with our French counterparts. This protocol will see the French border reopen to those travelling for urgent reasons, provided they have a certified negative COVID test.
“We continue to urge hauliers not to travel to Kent until further notice as we work to alleviate congestion at ports.”
The Transport Secretary also announced the temporary relaxation of drivers’ hours for hauliers to help drivers get through UK borders safely, including via Kent, during the coming weeks.