Travel between the UK and France - including rail, air and sea - resumed today (Wed 23 Dec), after being temporarily halted due to the new highly transmissible strain of Covid.
France banned travel and freight from the UK on Sunday (20 Dec) after the UK government warned of the new, quickly-spreading variant, which caused London and areas of south east England to enter into Tier 4 restrictions.
Negative coronavirus test required to travel
Over the past few days, thousands of lorries have been stacked on the M20 in Kent, waiting to reach the port of Dover. However, services have now resumed, after soldiers and NHS Test and Trace staff carried out rapid tests on stuck lorry drivers.
The agreement between the UK and France will allow those travelling for urgent reasons - including hauliers, British citizens with French residency, and French residents - to be allowed into France.
In order to be able travel, they will need to have received a negative coronavirus test result fewer than 72 hours before they are due to depart. Rapid lateral flow tests (which can detect the new Covid-19 strain and give results in around 30 minutes) will be used.
Those who have taken a test will then receive their result via text message, and this message will allow them to cross the Channel.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Tuesday evening (22 Dec), “I am pleased that we have made this important progress with our French counterparts this evening. This protocol will see the French border reopen to those travelling for urgent reasons, provided they have a certified negative COVID test.
“We continue to urge hauliers not to travel to Kent until further notice as we work to alleviate congestion at ports.”
The protocol agreed with the French Government will be reviewed on 31 December, but could run until 6 January 2021.
The Netherlands and Belgium have also relaxed bans on arrivals from the UK, but, again, only as long as they have a recent negative coronavirus test.
Why was a ban introduced?
The fast moving new variant of Covid-19 is thought to be 70 per cent more transmissible than other strains, and appears to be the cause of a rapid spread of new coronavirus infections in the UK.
As a result, France temporarily halted both freight and travel from the UK, with no lorries or ferry passengers able to sail from the port of Dover, as air, sea and rail travel was suspended.
Although services to France have now resumed for certain people, several countries around the globe which followed suit and introduced travel bans still have restrictions in place, including Spain, Italy, Bulgaria and Russia.