‘I WANT to update everyone on one thing and that is what has been happening at our borders in Dover,’ Tory PM Johnson said in a press briefing from 10 Downing Street yesterday.
He was addressing the escalating crisis after France shut down the port, by stopping the import and export of all goods in response to the rapidly spreading new variant of coronavirus throughout the UK.
The Dover shut down threatens to cause empty shelves and shortages, with basic supplies not reaching supermarkets in a period where there is an increased demand for food.
‘I chaired a meeting of the UK emergency committee which is COBRA,’ said Johnson.
‘We are working with our friends in Paris across The Channel to unblock the ports as quick as possible.
‘I have just spoken to President Macron and we both see each other’s point of view.
‘We are working out measures to allow freight traffic and to ensure that lorries can travel in both directions both to France and the UK,’ he said adding:
‘The risks of transmission by a solitary driver sitting alone in the cab are really very low.’
Tory Transport Secretary Grant Shapps also addressed the press briefing. He said: ‘There were at its height 500 lorries this morning which were queueing on the motorway, that is now down to 174 at the last time that I checked.
‘We will open up Manstead Airport as the PM has said to manage the overflow.
‘What has happened today is what might happen in very bad weather conditions or if there had been a strike over in Calais,’ he claimed.
Hundreds of lorries are snaked bumper-to-bumper for miles around the Kentish port after France shut its border with the UK on Sunday evening.
Part of the M20 has effectively become a giant lorry park for HGVs parked up on the hard shoulder. Nothing will move for at least another day as France confirmed that the shutdown is for at least 48-hours, with lorry drivers stranded without toilet facilities or immediate access to food and drink.
Drivers fear that perishable goods are rapidly going off, making their cargoes useless.
Unite national officer for road transport, Adrian Jones, said: ‘Drivers are suffering a nightmare before Christmas because of cross Channel gridlock. Unite has major concerns that many of those stuck in the immediate delays do not have access to proper toilets, washing facilities, decent food or places to rest outside of their cabs.
‘Nor it is just their physical needs that are being compromised. Waiting for hours and hours, with no idea of how long delays will continue for, is a huge cause of stress for drivers, with many fearing they might not get home in time for Christmas.
‘The government must work with the French authorities to end the border closure as soon as possible, providing drivers with tests proving they are not infectious if necessary. Emergency action is needed to ensure all stranded drivers have access to food, water, toilet facilities and other forms of support.’
Meanwhile more than 40 countries have banned UK arrivals because of concerns about the spread of the new variant of coronavirus.
Flights from the UK are being suspended to countries across the world including Spain, India and Hong Kong.
The UK has recorded 215 deaths and 33,364 cases of coronavirus in the last 24-hours.