More than 1,000 HGVs have left Manston so far as covid testing continues on Christmas Day

Military personnel drafted in Photo Louis McLaren

More than 1,000 HGV drivers queued at Manston and on the A256 have now had a covid test either by NHS staff or military personnel.

Kent County Council leader Roger Gough said there were two positive tests as of last night and these drivers will now have a PCR test. If these are also positive the drivers will be accommodated in a hotel to isolate.

Photo Louis McLaren

The site, managed by the Department for Transport and former land owners Stone Hill Park, currently has 12 food vans onsite – with ability to increase to 17 this weekend if needed – and 210 toilets.

Food available includes sandwiches, burgers, hotdogs, curries, Thai, halal, and doughnuts.


The community effort also continues with individuals and businesses, such as Pizza Hut, Il Tricolore, Dalby Café, Ramsgate Football Club and others, delivering food and drink to those still parked at the site.

Drivers have also asked for fresh water and fresh fruit.

Photo Frank Leppard

As of yesterday evening (December 24) there were 2,800 vehicles at the airport – down from the 3,800 capacity – although more, many currently parked up on surrounding roads, continue to arrive for tests.

Cllr Gough says that while there are field kitchens and chefs on standby, there is no need for additional support. The details were provided to County Councillor Karen Constantine following questions on driver welfare and a request for a site visit.

Photo Frank Leppard

Cllr Constantine said: “I’m pleased at last, to have some concrete information. KCC is supposed to have a robust, implementable plan in place. They are required by law to prepare an emergency plan so that “resources and experienced people are on standby to respond quickly and in the best possible way when a major crisis – of whatever kind – occurs.


RAF Benson personnel reported for duty at 0600hrs this morning to launch a Puma helicopter as part of our National…

Posted by RAF Benson on Friday, 25 December 2020

“It has taken several days for this plan to swing into action, in places this response has been too slow and has caused distress. This has no doubt been a very difficult time for the drivers and their families. Perhaps we can learn lessons from this difficult episode.

“Meanwhile the Thanet community has demonstrated care concern and action to meet the drivers basic needs. I hope now, with the additional ferries that drivers will soon be in there way home.”

Manston at one point yesterday Photo Frank Leppard

Medical facilities are also on site and BT has been commissioned to improve Wi-Fi improve coverage.

The French border was initially closed to UK passengers and accompanied freight on Sunday night with the French government voicing concerns over the virulent new strain of covid spreading in parts of England.

Photo Frank Leppard

An agreement to reopen the UK-French border to allow accompanied freight services and some passenger services to resume between the two countries was reached but all people travelling from the UK into France required to show proof of a negative Coronavirus test taken within the previous 72 hours.

Photo Louis McLaren

All lorry drivers, irrespective of nationality, require a lateral flow test. This can detect the new strain of COVID-19 and provide results in around 30-40 minutes, rather than the 24 hours required after a PCR test.

Photo Louis McLaren

P&O has confirmed ferry crossing will continue to take place over Christmas to help clear the backlog.

Military personnel, including from 36 Engineer Regiment and 1 Irish Guards, are assisting with testing and  a team of French firefighters arrived in Dover yesterday with 10,000 coronavirus tests for drivers.

An extra 800 military personnel have been sent in to Kent to support an increase in the testing capabilities and help clear the backlog of vehicles today. This is in addition to 300 personnel already working to get drivers tested.

The Ministry of Defence said: “While significant progress has been made, with hundreds of vehicles already departing the UK, there is a need for increased testing as more vehicles continue to arrive every hour.”


UPDATE: Christmas afternoon. Some 10,000 tests completed, just 24 are positive.


  1. Pleased they are on their way, it was an unecessary and cruel decision by the french authorities to stop vehicles returning to the continent for those three days.

Comments are closed.