Britain, France reopen cross-border travel, negative Covid-19 test is needed

PM Boris Johnson under growing pressure to resolve the deadlock

France and Britain agreed to reopen cross-border travel on Wednesday after a snap 48-hour ban to curb the spread of a new coronavirus variant threatened UK supply chains, AFP reported.

Much of Europe swiftly banned British travellers and UK freight entering their nations after the discovery of a more transmissible variant of Covid-19 in Britain. On Tuesday dramatic images showed hundreds of lorries backed up in Dover, with British PM Boris Johnson facing growing pressure to resolve the deadlock even as the post-Brexit trade deal deadline loomed.

Late Tuesday, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced Britain and France had settled on a protocol that "will see the French border reopen to those travelling for urgent reasons, provided they have a certified negative Covid-19 test." However, he urged lorry drivers not to head to the southern county of Kent in expectations of boarding a ferry or train.

French Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebarri also confirmed that air travel, boats and Eurostar trains would "resume service as of tomorrow morning". "French nationals, people living in France and those with a legitimate reason will have to be carrying a negative test," he said.

Despite the breakthrough in talks congestion around the key southern port of Dover remains unlikely to recede in the short term.

Late Tuesday, the major British transit hub said it would reopen from midnight local time (2300 GMT) for travellers with a negative result.

The measures imposed on hauliers have caused concern over shortages of some fresh food products over a Christmas period already marred by strict coronavirus restrictions.

More than 2,800 lorries remain stranded in the southern English county of Kent, unable to make the crossing to France, with drivers having spent a second night sleeping in their cabs.

As night fell on Tuesday, drivers of some 800 trucks parked at a nearby disused airport sounded their horns for more than half an hour in protest. The British transport ministry said: "All lorry drivers, irrespective of nationality, will require a lateral flow test." In a statement it added the test could detect the new Covid-19 variant "in around 30 minutes, rather than the 24 hours required after a PCR test".

In a statement to the press, the French Ministry of Transport said all travellers from Britain would be required to present a negative Covid test to their airline, ship or railway company less than 72 hours before departure.

The European Union had called on members to facilitate transit and to lift other transport bans to avoid supply chain disruptions.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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