Lorry drivers to be tested for Covid-19 on arrival to UK

28 March 2021, 14:05 | Updated: 29 March 2021, 08:02

By Joe Cook

Lorry drivers arriving from abroad who stay in the UK for longer than 48 hours will no longer be exempt from Covid-19 testing, it has been confirmed.

On Sunday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed the testing will come into force from 6 April, which aims to "ensure we keep track of any future coronavirus Variants of Concern".

Hauliers staying longer than two days will have to have a test within 48 of arriving and then every 72 hours, with fines similar to the £2,000 penalties for travellers who fail to test during home quarantine.

It comes just days after Boris Johnson warned tougher measures could lead to border chaos.

The move follows criticism of the government by the Home Affairs Committee chairwoman for not implementing a scheme for workers who regularly move across borders.

On Wednesday, committee chair Yvette Cooper furiously questioned the prime minister on why around 13,000 hauliers were coming across the Channel each week and not being tested, despite "two to three thousand new cases a day of the South Africa and Brazil variant in France".

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted he was considering tougher restrictions for France, telling the Liaison Committee that the government had to "look at the situation at the Channel" and "can't rule out tougher measures and we will put them in if necessary".

But, he warned that bringing in tighter restrictions, including testing hauliers, would cause "serious disruption" to cross-Channel trade.

"If it's necessary to bring in testing then we will do so, but I think you should understand the balance of doing that, the disruption to trade, and the risk that we are trying to address," he told MPs.

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Many drivers were stuck over Christmas at Dover after France introduced the need for Covid tests without warning.
Many drivers were stuck over Christmas at Dover after France introduced the need for Covid tests without warning. Picture: PA

When France required the testing of hauliers crossing the Channel in December it led to thousands of lorries being stranded in Kent while the arrangements were put in place.

However, Rod McKenzie, the chief of the Road Haulage Association, told LBC's Swarbrick on Sunday that the PM's concerns were overblown and the move "really means very little" for the industry.

"Lorry drivers are already doing Covid tests and having those test done. They will be tested in exactly the same places as that they are currently being tested at."

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Pressed by LBC's Tom Swarbrick on what difference this would make to drivers and supply chains, Mr McKenzie said: "Not much is the answer."

"Initially [in December] there was chaos because we didn't have the infrastructure set up and lorry drivers were facing huge delays. Since then we have got our act together and there is a good system, which works well.

"When drivers test positive they have to have a a second test and if that positive then they have to go into isolation. That system works and in terms of your question, which is are there delays as a result of that? The delays are minimal frankly."