DOVER, England (Reuters) – Truck drivers trapped along hundreds of miles of roads near the southern English port of Dover are facing a riddle: to travel to France they must have a COVID-19 test but they say there are no tests to be had.
After turning parts of southern England into a vast truck parking lot by closing the border to incoming freight, France opened its border on Wednesday to truckers who have a negative COVID test that is less than 72 hours old.
On the ground at the port of Dover – for centuries one of the main arteries for trade with the rest of Europe – there was little sign of any tests – or much other support for stranded drivers.
“They talk about some COVID test but there are no COVID tests,” Blazej Pankiewicz, a trucker from Torun, Poland, told Reuters in Dover surrounded by angry drivers.
Pankiewicz said he was extremely sad to be missing Christmas back home with his family which had already gathered.
Britain said it would hand out tests to some of the 8,000-10,000 truckers stranded in the area and that it would take time to roll out. A testing unit was supposed to be on its way to the port, according to local officials.
Truck drivers scuffled with police and sounded their horns in protest around Dover. Many have been eating through their last provisions on the side of the road while families gather for Christmas thousands of miles away.
In interviews with Reuters, truckers repeatedly expressed anger at their fate, a lack of support and absence of information.
Many suspect European leaders are playing politics over Brexit by closing the border to send a message to Prime Minister Boris Johnson about just how disruptive failure to secure a trade deal by Dec. 31 could be.
“They asked for a PCR COVID-19 test and we don’t have anywhere to do that,” Stella Vradzheva, a van driver from Strelcha in Bulgaria, told Reuters. “The roads are closed so if we go we can’t come back so we are stuck here.”
Vradzheva said that she and others in her van had been waiting for three days and had been given only some bottled water and a pack of crisps.
“We don’t have anything to eat, we don’t have anything to drink, we don’t have anything – nobody cares about us,” she said.
(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)