Patricia Szeweczyk, a driver from Poland, is one of thousands of people who have been stuck in a lorry for the past two days near the British border, without even drinking water.
Christmas ‘no way out’ in the truck
Wearing a yellow safety vest, Szeweczyk argued with a police officer, as dozens of people blocked a roundabout outside Manston Airport in Kent, southeast England, on December 23. Crowds of drivers jostled police and shouted. They are angry at the lack of facilities and testing for nCoV while stuck here.
More than 5,000 trucks were stuck near the port of Dover on the way to transport goods through the English Channel, after France on December 20 banned people from the UK from entering and closed the border tunnel across the strait, due to concerns about the nCoV strain. New strains are thought to spread more easily than older strains.
By the end of December 22, France agreed to reopen the border with the UK, but those who want to enter must present a negative test result for nCoV. British authorities are committed to conducting rapid test strip tests for drivers, because this method can help detect the new strain of nCoV and give results in 40 minutes, instead of having to wait 24 hours like a PCR test.
People who are positive for nCoV when tested with a rapid test strip will be tested again by PCR. If the result is still positive, they will be taken to a hotel for isolation. Testing for truck drivers at the port of Dover began on the afternoon of December 23.
UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said they were looking to solve the congestion between Britain and France. The British Ministry of Defense also sent 170 soldiers to support nCoV testing. However, Shapps warned “severe delays continue” and urged residents to avoid entering Kent.
In fact, the line of cars seems to show no signs of budging and the way to register for a nCoV test is also vague, causing drivers to rage. Many people from Eastern Europe, who don’t speak English, become frustrated because they won’t be able to go home for Christmas with their families.
Police said several disturbances had occurred “involving individuals wishing to cross the strait”, prompting them to make an arrest. However, Mekki Coskun, a driver from the German city of Dortmund, thinks things should not be handled that way. “We don’t have any information. People need information,” Coskun explained.
Drivers predict they will be stuck for days and will have to spend Christmas in their trucks. “The authorities say we are about to be tested for nCoV, but nothing has happened. Nothing is coming,” said Polish driver Ezdrasz Szwaja.
“We’ve been here for two days. I think it’s going to take two more days. There’s a lot of trucks,” Spanish driver Pablo Mora said while waiting inside. trucks in the town of Folkestone, near the port of Dover.
German driver Sergej Merkel was also among those heading for the border. He guessed he would be tested for nCoV within the next day or so, but still had to wait for his turn to cross the strait. “So we’ll be stuck in this truck for Christmas,” Merkel said, adding that many drivers probably don’t want to return to Britain after these “terrible days”.
Many in the crowd of drivers had no hot food in the cold, nor a place to shower, making them think they were victims of political tensions between Britain and the European Union. “We have no food, no water, nothing. No one cares about us,” said Bulgarian driver Stella Vradzheva.
Meanwhile, Polish driver Szwaja choked with emotion when he mentioned being away from two young children during Christmas. “I just want to go home,” he said.
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