Published: 16:06, 20 January 2021
| Updated: 16:38, 20 January 2021
Lorry drivers who test positive for coronavirus as they try to cross the border into France are being made to drive almost 50 miles to isolate, it has been revealed.
The Department for Transport has set aside two hotels in Kent as comfortable places for non-UK hauliers who need to quarantine but have nowhere else to go.
Since the emergency French travel ban caused chaos at the border in Dover over Christmas, lorry drivers must now produce a negative coronavirus test before being allowed to carry on with their journey.
A pop-up testing centre at Manston Airport opened specifically for hauliers as a result, some 20 miles away from the port. All drivers, irrespective of nationality, will require a lateral flow test which can detect the new strain of Covid-19 and provide results in around 30 minutes.
Those who test positive will be sent to either the Holiday Inn Rochester, in Chatham, 43 miles from Thanet, or the Holiday Inn, in London Road Wrotham Heath, in Sevenoaks, 49 miles away.
On Tuesday the car park of the hotel in Maidstone Road, Chatham was full of lorries. On Monday six were in Sevenoaks.
However the hotel in Chatham will stop being used next week with all drivers instead sent to Wrotham.
Once their isolation period is up, drivers then face another 50-mile journey to reach the Port of Dover, clocking up more miles on Kent’s roads.
A Department for Transport (DfT) spokesman said: “Accommodation is being made available to non-UK hauliers with nowhere to stay who test positive and we are working with the hotels and local authorities to ensure that it is Covid secure.
“This means that hauliers can self-isolate safely, without needing to go into the community for food and to use other facilities.”
In response to queries about why accommodation had not been sought closer to the testing site - there is a Premier Inn on Tothill Street, just across the road from Manston - the DfT insists the locations were carefully selected to minimise traffic in Kent, particularly near Dover.
A spokesperson for IHG Hotels and Resorts which oversee the Holiday Inn said: “IHG and our partners have worked closely with governments and local authorities to support the recovery effort during the pandemic.
"This has included the looking after of healthcare key workers through to society’s most vulnerable, such as the homeless. Due to guest confidentiality we would not comment on individual bookings."