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French government due to lift ban on travel from the UK tomorrow

The French borders are expected to reopen to cross-Channel traffic tomorrow following frantic negotiations between London and Paris.

Lorry drivers currently sitting on the M20 and in Manston Airfield should soon be able to make their Channel crossing - but they will likely only be permitted to travel with a negative test result for Covid-19.

Lorries between Junction 10a for Ashford and Junction 11 for Hythe
Lorries between Junction 10a for Ashford and Junction 11 for Hythe

French transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari tweeted to say planes, trains and ferries would be able to resume services in the morning.

According to the Telegraph, mobile units will be used to test at least 6,000 drivers in the UK will be overseen by army logistics experts as no one can travel across the Channel without a negative test.

A spokesman for DFDS confirmed the company was ready to start journeys as soon as possible.

They said: “Freight drivers and passengers are now able to travel from the UK arriving into France from midnight (local time) tonight, 22 December.

"Freight drivers and passengers are required to produce a negative COVID-19 test result upon departure in UK and upon arrival in France that has been conducted within 72 hours of travel.

"Without a negative test freight drivers and passengers will be denied boarding and should not come to the port. Please note only EU citizens returning home and those travelling for essential reasons are able to travel.

"If you already have a booking from UK to France from midnight tonight 22nd December onwards, please ensure you have a negative test result before setting off. Please do not come to the ports of Dover or Newhaven if you do not have a booking and a negative Covid test.

"We will do our best to support freight drivers and passengers returning home and those travelling for essential reasons and we will be serving complementary food during our crossings.”

Testing all the drivers currently waiting in Kent has caused more questions over logistics, as raised by Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association.

He said: “Right now, HGV drivers caught up in this mess have limited access to toilet and washing facilities - the majority have none.

"Denying them even the most basic facilities is not only putting their health at risk, it’s exacerbating the very situation that it was supposed to prevent.

"For example, what will happen to those drivers who test positive? They will be unfit to drive but where will they go? They will be unable to quarantine with their families in Europe and what will happen to their vehicles?

"Who will be responsible for the deep cleaning of their cabs? And for those carrying return loads, what will happen to their cargo? This is going to be an extremely expensive exercise.”

Despite the promised easing of the ban - which would still mean most Brits could not travel to France - Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has urged lorry drivers not to head to Kent in the hope of boarding a ferry or train.

Mr Shapps said: “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.”

A single toilet for hundreds of stranded drivers. Picture: Barry Goodwin.
A single toilet for hundreds of stranded drivers. Picture: Barry Goodwin.

More than 1,000 lorries were stranded in Kent while a resolution was sought and despite the announcement, it's expected to take hours for the backlog of lorries to clear.

All freight and passenger traffic was banned from entering France on Sunday over fears of the 'out of control' new coronavirus strain.

At the time, Prime Minister Jean Castex tweeted: "Given the new health risk, and pending its assessment, all flows of people from the United Kingdom to France are suspended from midnight tonight, for 48 hours, and for all means of transport."

The announcement meant lorry drivers were stuck in Dover unable to cross the Channel and it caused chaos on Kent's roads.

Stack was introduced on Monday and the M20 was closed that night so Brock could be implemented on Tuesday morning

The community in Dover have rallied together to help those stranded and waiting to get home.

Read more: All the latest news from Dover

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