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Shapps says 120,000 hauliers given Covid-19 tests ahead of Channel crossing

Gareth Fuller

By Richard Wheeler, PA Parliamentary Editor

French officials have yet to find any positive Covid-19 cases among hauliers tested by UK authorities before crossing the Channel, the Transport Secretary has claimed.

The UK Government has provided tests to 120,000 hauliers to enable them to cross into France, according to Grant Shapps.

He added that French authorities are also conducting their own tests of hauliers who have crossed the Channel, of which “none have come across with coronavirus”.

Restrictions on hauliers were put in place by the French government following the identification of a new variant of coronavirus in the UK before Christmas.

It caused major disruption in Kent and resulted in drivers wishing to enter France from Britain being required to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken in the previous 72 hours.

Speaking in the Commons, Conservative Natalie Elphicke said it was “extremely disappointing” that her Dover constituency “came to a halt, a standstill and gridlock” following “France’s unreasonable closure of the border”.

She asked: “Will (Mr Shapps) reaffirm the Government’s commitment to keep Dover clear, so that whatever is happening at the Port of Dover or by the French, people can get around to work, school and in their daily lives?”

Mr Shapps said: “Before Christmas President Macron decided to close the French border with no notice, meaning we ended up with thousands of lorries gridlocking Kent.

“We had to put in place emergency measures, which have included – at this stage – having provided lateral flow tests to 120,000 hauliers in order for them to cross.

“I can report to the House that once they’ve crossed to the other side, the French have also been carrying out some tests – none have come across with coronavirus as a result of the enormous programme we put in place.

“None of which would have been possible without (Ms Elphicke’s) tremendous assistance in those few days before Christmas whilst the military, the NHS test and trace, police, and not least the local MP, worked to clear the problem.”

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