More than 5,000 trucks became stranded at the French-UK border when France closed its border traffic because of the “mutant” COVID-19 variant that officials in Great Britain say spreads 70 percent faster than the original coronavirus.
Fights broke out between truckers and police after the two countries reached an agreement that would allow truckers into France if they could prove a negative coronavirus test in the last 72 hours. This set off a scramble among UK health officials who are trying to set up two testing stations — one in Ramsgate and another at a shuttered airport — where truckers have been stacked up since Monday.
It seems likely that many French truckers will be still in Great Britain over Christmas.
The chaos began on Sunday night when France, along with several countries in Europe and around the world, shut off the UK due to fears about a new variant of the coronavirus that was discovered in England.
The crossing between Dover and the French city of Calais, which serves as a major European trade artery and handles around 17% of the UK’s goods imports, ground to a halt after the announcement. The shutdown caused many British supermarket shelves to empty, in scenes reminiscent of the early days of the pandemic.
The scene is chaotic and confused with truckers not getting much information.
But police were telling truck drivers they are not yet allowed to cross even if they have a negative test on Wednesday, claiming that instruction came from French authorities. An officer also told CNN they had been shown fraudulent test results by some drivers.
“People are crazy and nervous right now, because (we) are pretty sure we will not reach our families for Christmas,” a driver from Poland told CNN on Wednesday.
The driver, named Greg, described a tumultuous scene as some waited to be tested at Manston Airport, while others waited to hear whether members of the NHS Test and Trace service would be deployed.
BREAKING: Confrontations between drivers and police officers in Dover after delays in reopening the Channel crossing.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) December 23, 2020
Meanwhile, I hope British families did their holiday dinner shopping early this year.
The impact of the disruption will likely be felt by British consumers for several days, experts said. “Even working extremely quickly and with Calais possibly shut for Christmas Day, it is clear it could take until the New Year to return to normal operations,” Ian Wright, chief executive of the UK’s Food and Drink Federation, said on Wednesday.
It’s a mess, to be sure. Some British analysts are wondering if this isn’t French payback for Brexit and the difficulty in negotiating with Great Britain. French President Macron has made it clear that the “mutant” virus strain is the problem, but I’m sure he doesn’t mind seeing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson twist in the wind a bit as anger grows over the shutdowns—and now lockdowns over Christmas.
The media is making the most of the “mutant” virus story, ginning up hysteria. NBC News headlined its story, “As U.K. faces mutant virus surge over Christmas, experts warn U.S.: ‘It’s coming.'”
You got that? Run for your lives! It’s the mutant virus! And “it’s coming”! Not very subtle, are they?
There’s also another “mutant” virus from South Africa that two people in Great Britain have contracted. So far, the government has only requested people who visited South Africa recently get tested. No one knows anything about this variant of the coronavirus, but I’m sure the media will help us get hysterical about that one too.
No one knows if the vaccines will be effective against the variants. If not, we can look forward to another year of this crap.