Chaos in UK: Drama as Trapped truckers clash with police

Anarchy was spreading across Kent today as fights broke out between lorry drivers and police at the Port of Dover and Manston Airport - and testing staff arrived in an attempt to get them across the Channel for Christmas.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron last night agreed a deal to let lorry drivers into France with a negative 30-minute lateral flow coronavirus test, after two days of chaotic gridlock following the French president's fears over the new super-infectious strain of Covid-19 sweeping across Britain and other countries.  

The major flashpoint in Kent today was at the Port of Dover where drivers were blocking the entrance in anger at not being allowed to cross the Channel without a negative coronavirus test from the UK Government.  

But to get that test, they have to travel 18 miles to Manston Airport which is already full with 3,800 lorry drivers who also clashed with police today and broke out of the encampment in running battles with officers.  

Much of the county is gridlocked and and a second testing centre has been set up at Dreamland amusement park in Margate. But so far no lorries have crossed the Channel by sea although the Eurotunnel train line has re-opened.  

The Road Haulage Association said the gridlock will probably last until Boxing Day with 100 tests per hour being carried out, later rising to 300 an hour amid estimates between 8,000 and 10,000 delayed lorries are now in Kent.  

Dozens of truckers trying to reach their homes on the Continent tried to force their way past officers guarding the Port of Dover this morning. Hundreds left their cabs and walked along the A20 to the port entrance jeering and whistling, with some shouting in English: 'Open the border', 'We just want to go home' and 'F*** you, Boris!'  

At one point several of them surged forwards towards a line of Kent Police officers who were forced to push them back as days of simmering anger at the chaotic situation amid the pandemic bubbled to the surface. Some drivers showed police apparently negative results, but an officer said a lot of them were 'fake test sheets'.  

Tensions also boiled over at Manston Airport, where truckers whose lorries are being held staged a protest, broke down fences and blocked roads. Some 150 members of the Armed Forces and NHS staff are working to administer Covid-19 tests at the airport, which are handed to drivers in their cabs to be self-administered under supervision.  

The result will then be communicated to the driver via text or email, identifying them via their numberplate. Further tests sites were also being set up at the entrance to the Port of Dover, but the junction was blocked by vans and cars with some even parked in the wrong direction, and on the M20 heading towards Folkestone.  

More than 5,000 lorries were being held in three traffic management operations across Kent today. Any new lorries arriving at Manston, a disused former military airfield, were being directed to Operation Brock on the M20, where 610 vehicles were waiting. A further 632 were placed in Operation Stack on the same motorway.  

It comes as Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick warned it may take a 'few days' to clear the backlog of lorries waiting to cross the Channel. He had initially said he hoped HGVs would begin crossing this morning.  

But lorry drivers at the entrance have been honking their horns and shouting in protest at being stuck. Standing in small groups, they shouted 'we want to go home' as they tried to shelter from heavy rain and strong winds.  

A deal was finally struck last night with France after a ban on UK arrivals was imposed by President Macron on Sunday, which has since seen thousands of trucks stranded in Kent, unable to cross the Channel.  

The agreement requires every driver to have been tested for coronavirus, using controversial lateral flow tests, which are able to turn around results in under an hour but have had their effectiveness questioned.  

However experts warned the UK still faces an uphill battle to test 6,000 drivers a day for coronavirus – with the International Road Transport Union warning even a 30-minute test would be 'absolutely a disaster'.  

Kent Police said a man was arrested today in Dover for obstructing a highway and remains in custody, adding that there were 'disturbances involving individuals in both Dover and at the DfT-run lorry holding facility at Manston'.  

Detectives added that officers at both locations were 'working with partner agencies to make sure those hoping to travel to the continent adhere to the latest Government travel requirements regarding Covid testing'.  

A Port of Dover spokesman said no lorries had yet been able to pass through the port and couldn't say how long it would take to clear the backlog. Officials also confirmed there were no testing facilities at the port itself.  

And Eurotunnel officials said the first trucks started to arrive at its Folkestone terminal at 8am today, adding that all drivers must use the M20 and join the queue on the coastbound lanes where they will be tested for Covid-19.

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