LONDON (AP) – After France briefly closed its borders to the UK, about 1,000 British soldiers spent Christmas Day evacuating large numbers of truck drivers stranded in southeastern England, followed by a new, apparently more contagious, viral variant.
Although an estimated 4,000 or more international truck drivers spend another day cooperating in their carriages, Friday saw some improvement as traffic around the English Channel port city of Dover moves in order toward additional boats. Make a short cross to Calais in northern France. The train operator Eurotanel also came back into action, which provided a way back to France.
Military personnel guide traffic and assist drivers with a large test program they must test negative to enter France. French firefighters have also been drafted to help military test drivers for the corona virus. Poland sent regional security forces reinforcements to assist with testing and food distribution.
The British Transport Secretary, Grand Shops, said he had instructed the military to control the raid as part of an effort to “take foreign hauliers home with their families as soon as we can”.
Transportation officials said all but three of the tests conducted so far were negative. Accommodation is provided for those who test positive. Most tests are performed at an unused airport at Monston Airport, 20 miles (33 km) from Dover.
France closed its border with Britain for 48 hours last Sunday, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying the virus, which spreads more than 70%, could spread rapidly in London and surrounding areas. As a result, many parts of the capital and the UK saw the tightening of locking restrictions and the cancellation of family vacations.
Free food and drink were sent to stranded truck drivers and more than 250 small toilets were placed in Monston, and 32 were placed on the built-up M20 highway. The British Coast Guard says its crews in the Dover area have so far served 3,000 hot meals, 600 pizzas and 2,985 packs of lunch.
“The most reassuring thing is that food is available at Monston, and I have to say a big thank you to everyone who volunteered to help drive it out in the cold weather in the days before Christmas,” said Duncan Buchanan of the UK Road Houlage Association.
The mood among stranded drivers often seemed to be worse, especially compared to their anger at the lack of situation and facilities earlier this week.
The virus has been blamed for more than 1.7 million deaths worldwide, with nearly 70,000 in the UK, making it the second-highest death toll in Europe after Italy.
On Saturday, Britain is expanding strict locking restrictions to several areas as authorities try to prevent the spread of the new variant. In the past two days, the UK has recorded its two highest daily infection numbers of less than 40,000. This raises fears that the country’s beloved National Health Service will soon face severe capacity issues in its hospitals and that thousands more people will die from the virus.
In a video message to the nation, Johnson said this Christmas is not about “gifts, or turkey or brandy butter”, but about hope, given in the form of corona virus vaccine shots and more vaccines being developed.
“We know that people will be alive next Christmas. We want the people we want to be alive next Christmas because we sacrificed and did not celebrate this Christmas normally,” the prime minister said.
Johnson said on Thursday that more than 800,000 people in the UK had received the first dose of the vaccine developed by US pharmaceutical company Pfizer and German biotechnology company Bioendech. The UK was the first country in the world to approve the vaccine, and began vaccinating health workers and people over the age of 80 on December 8th.
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