Truck driver criticises government’s handling of France border crisis
A mass testing programme for lorry drivers will get underway on Wednesday to alleviate congestion at ports after an agreement was reached to reopen the border between France and the UK. French authorities announced that journeys from the UK will be allowed to resume after the coronavirus ban was lifted, but those seeking to travel must have a negative test result. The Netherlands also announced they were relaxing restrictions for travellers who could present a negative test result.
Meanwhile, snowfall in the north of England on Wednesday was causing problems on the roads while the Met Office said strong winds forecast for Boxing Day could lead to further transport disruption.
Hauliers urged not to travel to Kent despite border reopening
Priti Patel has urged lorry drivers to stay away from Kent after the border reopened with France.
The home secretary tweeted: “The UK-French border is reopening. Priority is to get lorries moving & mass testing is underway.
“We urge hauliers not to travel to Kent as we work to alleviate congestion – travelling now will slow things down. Tourist travellers who are not French residents should not travel.”
Tom Batchelor23 December 2020 12:44
Finland cancels UK flights until 4 January
The Finnish Transport and Communications Agency, Traficom, has decided to suspend air passenger flights from the UK to Finland until 4 January.
It said that due to the decision, many travellers’ return to Finland will be “difficult or prevented altogether”.
A statement on Finland’s Foreign Ministry website said: “Traficom decided to ban flights to prevent the spread of the new variant of coronavirus to Finland. The ban applies to all flights, including repatriation flights.
”In the early phases of the pandemic in the spring, the government decided to organise repatriation flights because air traffic was suddenly suspended all over the world.
“Now that people have been aware of the situation and the consequent travel recommendations for a long time, we are not planning repatriation flights.
“Travellers should primarily sort out their possibilities to return to Finland independently but, at present, it may be difficult to find any connections.
“Many travellers may have to stay at their travel destination until passenger airlines resume their regular operations.”
Tom Batchelor23 December 2020 12:25
Calls for Northern Ireland airport to close due to coronavirus fears
Amid concern that City of Derry airport is being used by British travellers as a “back door” to the European Union, councillors in northwest Northern Ireland say the gateway should close to passengers to prevent “a grave risk” to local people, writes Simon Calder.
Paul Gallagher and Gary Donnelly, both independents councillors, have secured an emergency meeting of Derry City and Strabane Council on 29 December to discuss the threat posed by the new variant of coronavirus – and the alleged behaviour of some travellers.
Tom Batchelor23 December 2020 12:16
Travel bans ‘largely ineffective’, says virologist
Imposing “onerous travel restrictions alone” is unlikely to make a significant impact on the spread of the virus, a virologist has argued.
Writing in The Guardian, Angela Rasmussen, of the Georgetown Center for Global Health Science and Security, said restrictions on transport “reflects a simplistic understanding of how viruses spread and evolve”.
She wrote: “Rather than harsh and largely ineffective travel bans, we should instead focus on encouraging compliance with proven interventions such as masking, distancing, avoiding crowds and enclosed spaces, avoiding gathering outside of one’s household or quarantine pod, and practising good hand hygiene.”
Tom Batchelor23 December 2020 12:13
Arrest in Dover amid clashes between drivers and police
A man has been arrested after disturbances in Dover and the nearby Manston lorry park.
The man is being held for obstructing a highway in Dover, Kent Police said.
A spokesman added: “Officers on the ground at both locations are working with partner agencies to make sure those hoping to travel to the continent adhere to the latest Government travel requirements regarding Covid testing.”
Some lorry drivers clashed with police early on Wednesday in Dover as they continued to be held up because of the impact of the now-lifted French travel ban.
Tom Batchelor23 December 2020 11:50
Issues at the ports highlight what could be on the horizon in Brexit Britain | Editorial
No one now can be in any doubt about how vital the channel ports are to commerce on both sides, and how dangerous it will be when the current “frictionless trade” comes to an end.
Read the full editorial here:
Tom Batchelor23 December 2020 11:42
Strong winds threaten Boxing Day transport disruption
The Met Office is warning that strong winds forecast on Boxing Day across the whole of England and Wales could cause transport disruption.
Exposed coasts and hills could see winds of up to 80mph while 50-60mph is likely for many from 3pm on Saturday until midday on Sunday.
Tom Batchelor23 December 2020 11:23
Australians offered help to get home
The Australian High Commission in the United Kingdom is offering help to citizens to travel back from the UK, after key transit routes via Singapore and Hong Kong were closed off by travel bans.
“We will begin to contact affected Australians, who advised us of their disruption, today,” the statement said.
“We will be offering them support to get home including by connecting affected Australians with alternate tickets on other airlines, utilising surge capacity on other carriers into Australian jurisdictions with quarantine capacity and by making more space available on facilitated commercial flights.
“This isn’t the end of the measures we’re putting in place, we thank you for your patience while we work through these arrangements.”
There have been reports of Australians left stranded after Singapore shut its doors to UK arrivals this week.
Jacob Marchett, 26, had just finished a two-year teaching contract and ended the lease on his home in order to travel back to Melbourne on Christmas Eve. But his flight with Singapore Airlines has now been cancelled.
His family told The Sydney Morning Herald: “We just want our kid home for New Years and Christmas. We haven’t seen our son for two years. He would have gone into quarantine but he still would have been back.”
Tom Batchelor23 December 2020 11:10
Cuba demands PCR tests from 2021
From the New Year, Cuba will demand a negative PCR Covid test result taken within 72 hours before travel at an accredited testing centre from all international arrivals, writes Simon Calder.
Children are not exempt. A second test will be conducted on arrival.
“You should not use the NHS testing services to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country,” says the British government.
Cuba is one of relative few nations from which travellers need not quarantine on return to the UK.
Tom Batchelor23 December 2020 10:56
Snow brings weather warning
Cumbria Police are warning motorists in the Pennines to “take extra care” on the A686 road linking Hartside with Alston, following heavy snowfall, reports Simon Calder.
“Motorists are asked to drive to the road conditions in front of them, which may be slower than the speed limit,” officers say.
Tom Batchelor23 December 2020 10:51