On Thursday, trucks began boarding ferries in Dover to cross the English Channel for the first time in four days. This was a step towards ending a thousand traffic jams that piled up at the border after France banned crossings from the UK to limit the spread of a coronavirus variant.
The sea, rail and air routes had reopened more than 24 hours earlier after London agreed to run virus tests on drivers. However, the backlog didn’t begin to clear until Thursday after British authorities set up screening and cleared the healthy for travel.
Members of the British military were dispatched to test the thousands of drivers.
Due to the size of the task, the movement remained slow on Thursday morning. It could take days for the traffic jam to clear completely, which means that many drivers are unlikely to get home on Christmas Day.
Hordes of drivers have been stranded after the border’s sudden closure, leaving them with no more space and barely any access to food or public facilities. Many had to sleep in their rigs for several nights, and even with the track open, trouble was felt on Thursday when some truckers spelled the word “HELP” with traffic cones, according to a picture in The Guardian.
“It’s like a horror movie,” said Ravinder Singh, executive director of Khalsa Aid, which distributes meals to drivers stuck on the highway. “It’s a prison for them: there is nowhere to go,” he added.
About 6,000 trucks got stuck in Dover and approaching the port on Thursday, of which 4,000 were parked at a disused airport that has been converted into a stopping area, the BBC reported.
The government in Kent, the county of which Dover is a part, has been working with aid organizations to provide food and water for drivers. Supermarkets and local businesses in south east England have also made donations, council officials said, adding that more portable toilets have also been installed along the motorway.
Roger Gough, chairman of Kent Council, said in a statement that he hoped the situation would steadily improve.
“However, I have deep sympathy for those who are late for Christmas with their families,” said Gough.
In other developments around the world:
Austria The ski slopes were allowed to be opened on Thursday, but all skiers aged 14 and over had to wear respirators in public areas and when driving in gondolas. Hotels, restaurants and bars will remain closed. From Thursday, Austria will loosen the lockdown for the Christmas holidays, lift the night curfew and allow up to 10 people from 10 different households to meet. On Saturday, the restrictions will be tightened again until mid-January. The country of 8.8 million people recorded 2,131 new cases of infection on Thursday.
China will suspend direct flights to and from the UK indefinitely due to concerns about the infectious variant that is widespread there, a State Department spokesman said Thursday. China has banned non-resident travelers from Belgium, the UK, France, India and the Philippines since November, but kept its borders open to Chinese nationals, including students studying in those countries.
Prime Minister Ana Brnabic of Serbia Reuters reported that he received the country’s first Covid-19 vaccine on Thursday, starting a mass vaccination campaign. Around 4,875 doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine were flown in on Tuesday. This made Serbia the first Balkan nation to receive shots. Ms. Brnabic said the country is also awaiting shipments of China’s Sinopharm and Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines, and President Aleksandar Vucic will most likely receive the Sinopharm vaccine. “We both agreed that the two of us would be shooting from different producers,” she told reporters.
European Union The member states should start vaccinations on Sunday. in the France, where the The National Health Agency approved the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. The authorities have ordered about 200 million cans and have outlined a three-phase vaccination strategy, starting with retirement homes and hospitals. Spain The first Covid-19 vaccination is due to take place on Sunday in a nursing home in downtown Guadalajara.
Melissa Eddy, Tiffany May, Raphael Minder, Constant Méheut and Eshe Nelson contributed to the coverage.