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Furious truckers stuck in UK due to Covid blockade scuffle with cops

France's partial blockade over fears of infectious strain of coronavirus sparks protests in UK port of Dover

DOVER Furious truck drivers scuffled with police and sounded their horns in protest around the British port of Dover as a partial blockade by France designed to contain a highly infectious coronavirus variant stranded thousands before Christmas.

Paris and London agreed late on Tuesday that drivers carrying a negative test result could board ferries for Calais from yesterday after much of the world shut its borders to Britain to contain the new mutated variant.

A British minister said the military would start testing drivers but he warned that it would take time to clear the backlog.

Huge queues of trucks have been stacked on a motorway towards the Eurotunnel Channel Tunnel and Dover in the south-east county of Kent, while others have been parked at a nearby former airport.

With no sign of traffic to the European mainland resuming and confusion over how to get a coronavirus test, TV footage showed drivers honking their truck horns and flashing lights in unison in protest.

As tempers flared in Dover, there were brief scuffles between a small number of police officers and drivers, many who do not speak English and are angry that they will not be able to get home to their families before Christmas.

"This is not how it should work. We have no information, the people need to be fetching information," said trucker Mekki Coskun from Dortmund in Germany.

Police said there had been disturbances in Dover and Manston "involving individuals hoping to cross the Channel" and one arrest had been made.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA), which estimated there were up to 10,000 trucks being held up in Kent, said the situation was chaotic as the testing system was not yet ready.

"The border is still closed, the testing regime isn't happening yet, you've got truckers very angry and we're starting to see a breakdown in law and order in a small way among very frustrated guys who want to get back by Christmas," Mr Rod McKenzie, managing director of policy for the RHA, said.

Between 7,500 to 8,500 trucks travel via the port every day but volumes have reached more than 10,000 recently.

Britain reported a record number of infections on Tuesday.

Official figures showed there had been 36,804 new cases and a further 691 deaths, both up markedly from a day before.

- REUTERS

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